Monday, January 24, 2011

Is it Art?

I recently made a small piece for an exhibit called "This is a Quilt." Of course, I thought, this is a great opportunity to answer the question about art made in the form of quilts, which some people then insist is (merely?) craft, So, here it is. When I painted the scene on fabric (yup, stretched canvas is fabric) with oil paints, it is clearly, Fine Art. When it's painted on fabric, and a piece of batting and backing attached to the back of it with thread (enhancing the painting with texture?)- now it's NOT Fine Art. Now I'm not an artist, I'm "crafty?" (Sounds shifty, or underhanded). Or at best, I'm "arty?" Sounds like impersonating an artist- but it's MY artwork. It's a copy, or a print? Is printmaking fine art? Most serious printmakers I know consider themselves artists. As long as they don't add thread, I guess...

Of course, are you an artist if you also do something crafty for a living, like do surgical procedures around peoples' spines (uh, yeah, my day job). Am I more of an artist because I often sell paintings and fabric collages (art quilts?) from the walls of my exam rooms while I write prescriptions for my patients? Whoa, talk about blurring the lines? Do you have to actually sell anything to be an artist? I like to donate art to worthy organizations for fundraisers, and just give paintings and quilts away to friends and family.
So, crafty physician? Artsy-fartsy doctor? Artist and scientist? Sorry, this is making my head spin. I've gotta get back to the studio now and make craft, er, make art.
Here's the quilt. Go back two blog posts. There's the oil painting.
And here's a new oil painting, destined to spark a similar fall from grace when it inspires a quilt.


  1. Hi Phyllis,
    You raise some interesting questions in your post. I happen to think that an oil painting is (usually) art, and if you add stitching it doesn't automatically become crafty or something "less than" art.
    However, I'm curious to know - why add stitching to an oil painting? If it's just to run straight lines through it, or as a gimmick to make it different from other paintings, I don’t think it's worth doing. However, if the stitching will enhance the work and bring something more to the viewer's experience, then by all means go for it.
    So I think it depends on the purpose as well as the end result visually, to determine if a stitched piece is fine art or not.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this & asking the questions,

  2. I took this a bit further and wrote on my blog about it. My premise begins with a quote from you and then meanders on. Good food for thought.
    Regards, Cindy

  3. If you were my doctor, I could say, "Well, it's art because my doctor told me so." Since I've seen your work (with and without thread), I would consider it art. My question to you is, do you consider it art? I think we people of thread (mostly women) are too accepting of labels people put on our work (to make sure theirs remains art?). Just keep calling it art. If that doesn't work, get some academic to drool over it and write about it, and then it really will be art! (from a former academic)

  4. I think it is just what the doctor ordered. I don't care what you call it. A thing of beauty would be good enough. You are quite a painter and fiber artist too.

  5. Love your take on this. This is a perfect example, IMO, of what SAQAs "This is a quilt" is all about....educating the public that art quilts are art. Thank you for taking this to the next level.

  6. This was an absolutely wonderful piece to read first thing this morning. As a professional workshop presenter/organizer/manager easing in semi-retirement and expanding my time spent in fiber arts, some of what you write resonates deeply. Nice to know there are others out there pondering the same phenomena.