Thursday, November 10, 2011

Negative Reactions To Art

(this quilt was made by my Grandmother)

We all have different reactions to art. When looking at art we may like it, not like it, or we may be unaffected by it. In Kat's Find Your Eye: Journey of Inspiration she asked us if we've ever had a negative reaction to a piece of art.

I knew immediately a piece of art that repulsed and irritated me. While wandering around an art museum I saw a fabric wall hanging called Acid Dandy by China Marks. Marks used an industrial sewing machine to applique and embroidery on various fabrics.  She calls them “sewn drawings.“ To me, it was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.   I'll try to describe the piece. The blue background had daisy clouds in total contrast with a grotesque head that had red-rimmed eyes, a huge nose,  plaid teeth in his paisley mouth and his tongue was sticking out.   It was hideous looking, almost violent.
To have someone take the beautiful art of embroidery and quilting and create such a piece really angered me. It was more like “how dare she?” I just kept staring at it in disbelief.

Why did it bother me? It was rather ugly, so being repulsed wasn't an uncommon reaction. But, I was irritated, even angry. What brought on that strong feeling?  To me the gross head on the quilt seemed irreverent. If it had been a painting, I would have thought it was ugly,  but I wouldn't have been angry. Her work was totally opposite of how I view embroidery work and quilts. When I think of traditional needlework I think of home, warmth, love, and family. My Grandmother and my Mother embroidered and quilted. I enjoy creating small quilts to use as wall hangings. Needlework to me is beautiful.

This assignment made me think about my reaction.  I realized that this was not a quilt as I know quilts. It is the way she expresses her art; drawing with a sewing machine on fabric. I read her web page; she loves what she does. She is very talented to able to create such an intricate design. From experience I know how hard it is to machine applique and embroidery. Now, instead of seeing something that offends me, I  appreciate the work she puts into her art.  I may never like her style of art, but I can be more accepting.  Art is a personal thing and we all create and see it differently.
(this image was taken at a local quilt show)


  1. Wow, Cathy, that is a powerful piece. You really did get to the nitty gritty of art in a very visceral way. The really neat thing is you came out the other end with a perfect understanding of artists and the process. The interesting thing is you recognized her skill. At this point in my life, with as much exposure to art as I have had, what gets my goat is poor skill, not some expression I disagree with. That took me a while to put a finger on, you got it right away. Skill is important, a badly crafted sculpture or quilt is just bad, no matter how wonderful the subject. A beautifully crafted sculpture or quilt is still worthy no matter the subject.

  2. Cathy,

    I really appreciate how you came to accept the other artist's work even if you did not like it. That is powerful.

  3. Cathy,
    This artist broke your rule - that quilts mean home and love and happiness. Something I completely agree with as my grandmother was also a quilter. But then you were courageous enough to investigate further and admire her skills as an artist, even without having to like the results. I think that is what we owe each other as fellow artists - the recognition that the work means something, even when we don't like it.

  4. A hard exploration Cathy, but I really appreciate where you came out on the other side. Respect for the artist, and a new understanding of what you value in fabric art and why. Thanks for sharing this great experience.


Thanks so much for stopping by!!