Thursday, December 07, 2006

Letting the Body Talk to Me

I'm still sharing pictures from China. This dignified man seemed to be a village priest in a "stone" farm village we visited outside Lijiang. If he was, I suppose he was Taoist for the building he was sitting beside was not a Buddhist one and, of course, he isn't dressed like a lama or other Buddhist priest. He was happy to have his picture taken and to receive a few yuan ... for all cynical New Yorker than I am, knows, it might have been his stchick. But I don't think so. Most small towns have their spiritual personage of whatever persuasion and I assume that was his role.
Oh, my! Yesterday's excursion has echos yet today. I was tired and I was pleased to have a good night's sleep. But today I find myself more depleted than I would have expected. It's a beautiful day, sunny and in the 50s, so off I went aiming for the grocery store six blocks away. Not so far a walk on a beautiful day ... usually. But as I approached the much more expensive grocery store three blocks away I realized that would have to be my destination. For the first time in my life I had groceries delivered -- which I know many people do regularly but to this independent Midwestern WASP it was a new experience. Isn't it new experiences that keep life interesting?
I was up bright and early and working on the the rest of the quilted border and then I cut out paper patterns for the shadows of the butterflies. That was before I went out. Instead of hanging it back up the wall -- which is a bit of an operation -- it's a display wall, not a design wall -- I lay it on the bed. I don't like it much on the bed. So I've got to find the energy later on and hang it up. The angle really makes a big difference. This needz to be seen head on, not looking down.
I suffer many doubts about what I'm doing, since I've had no art training. Heaven knows I've read a lot of art books. I have a two volume catalog of mostly contemporary American art that was sold by the Philip de Pury Company in May of this year. Rachel saw me with the first book in my lap reading the critical comments and the artists' statements and remarked, "You're the only person who ever reads those things." Well, I do. I read and look and try to understand. I do the same with quilt show catalogs, and with all the other print that comes into my hands, like the Fiber Arts Magazine I bought yesterday and the Quilting Arts Magazine I had just finished reading. When does craft become art? Who decides?
I know when fiction, poetry or drama is seriously intended although I don't always understand the poetry. I've read so much in the course of my life, and tried so hard to write well and to express what I understand that I don't have to ponder whether the author is trying to make "art". But the visual arts, expecially the arts that have grown out of crafts leave me confused. I don't think I'll be able to call the butterfly quilt art ... but I'm not sure. I can call my year-long daily diary quilt pieces cumulatively art. They say as much about that year as I could have ever said in a poem -- more, I think. And they were done with expression as the motive even as I was using new craft techniques. So perhaps the definition of art comes down to sincerity of expression. Is then superior craft in the service of that sincere expression what lifts works into "fine art". I'm sure it is in literature, and I suppose it is in the traditioinal [museum defined] visual arts. I think people like quilters are still trying to make a case for what they do. I believe some of the excellent art quilts I've seen deserve to be in a league with some of the art in the catalogs I'm reading -- and sold for similar six figure prices. ... but I won't hold my breath for the latter.

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