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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

disposable art?

flower embroidery
detail from flower initial embroidery panel by ebbandflo

A couple of summers ago Germaine Greer published a piece in The Guardian newspaper which had fibre arts bloggers up in arms. Her review of an exhibition of patchwork by artist Edrica Huws, drew fire because she commented at how pointless an exercise working with fabric was since all works created in this way will decay swiftly. With descriptions like "heroic pointlessness" and "an exercise in futility" Ms. Greer drew fire from many angered women artists. (I'll let you read the article itself to draw your own conclusions as to whether the author does women artists/textile art a disservice).
For what it's worth, I do disagree with some of the points raised, about women frittering their time away on these purposeless endeavours which cannot be 'used'. Doesn't that sum up most works of art anyway? Most pieces cannot be 'used', merely gazed upon and appreciated, and in anways, their useability comes from stimulating the senses/spirit. Go and see the current exhibition of Kirsten Chursinoff's sumptuous quilted and embroidered landscapes at Place des Arts for an example.
What I feel Greer does miss however, is how much more fibre/textile art fits into a woman's daily life than more 'rigid' forms of expression e.g painting, sculpture, metalcasting and so on. What does a woman do all day? She works, whether at home with children or out 'in real life'. Packing a canvas and full set of paints, brushes, saw, soldering kit, sheet metal etc. is never a realistic option. What packs away better into a diaper bag or briefcase but some good old fibre art? Readers of my blog will know that I usually have an ongoing craft project in my bag when out and about. Usually it's knitting or crochet (wire and yarn) but I have taken finished metalwork to file and polish, a sketchbook for designs, embroidery or other sewing.
Fibre and textile work can usually be compressed thus rendering it appropriate for life on the go. I don't have to wait for a layer of paint to dry before I can pack away my portable crafting project and run to my child's latest emergency. If I'm careful I won't even drop a stitch or lose a bead.
In my opinion Ms Greer misses the point in condemning fibre art as pointless women's art - it might decay, it might rot and not be as durable as oil masterpieces, but in terms of the day to day, they make a much bigger difference in the life of many women and may represent the only creative outlet sneaked into a busy day for many.
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