Instead of rehashing explanations given before, let’s begin here with our QuiltCon show description of Give a F*ck (link NSFW).
In this project, a group of quilters challenge several boundary notions about quilts. Now that text in designs is acceptable, should the text be censored? We express our potty-mouths in patchwork using the ultimate in four-letter words.
This sums up the intent. We did not intend to shock; that is a byproduct for just some viewers. We were just having fun in self-expression in a greater national society that allows us to do so. Should we have? Yes…yes, we should have. And we had fun doing it.
Let’s be clear. Naively, I think most don’t object to the mere existence of the quilt (although there were some comments to the contrary here before now). The issue most have now is with the exhibition of the quilt at QuiltCon (or anywhere). We’ll get to that in a moment.
On censorship of language. The quilting community censors itself in myriad ways on often ludicrous bases: foremost is the gangland war between “traditional” and “art” quilters, with recent skirmishes from the “modern” sector. Depictions of nudity, however tasteful, are often censored in the quilting community. Within such a terribly divisive and buttoned-up group, there was no doubt that censorship of language on quilts was inevitable once the use of text hit the mainstream of quilters. Why not challenge this in a simple way?
One can view a quilt from many different perspectives: as a utilitarian tool for warming, as an exercise in design innovation, or as an artistic statement. Our ability to judge or perceive those perspectives is informed by our own personal experiences, opinions and values.
This is a warm quilt that one can use for many, many years. Flip it over for a moment and put it on your couch. The backing is a wide teal polka dot cotton print. If you can muster tolerance for an acre of teal polka dots, then you can nap cozily underneath this quilt. It is washable; all seams are sound; there is ample well-executed quilting; and all colors are colorfast. No matter what you might think of the patchwork, this is a quilt; it exists; and it is functional.
This is not an exercise in design innovation, overall. While each separate artist who participated designed his/her own block and several are interesting and innovative designs on their own, the quilt itself utilizes simple improvisational sashing. This choice was intentional. It seemed inappropriate to detract from one’s ability to engage with individual expressions in the blocks. Now, on the other hand, if one wanted to consider the use of f*ck in a quilt innovative, I guess that could be the case. However, the use of f*ck—nor any other word in the English language—is not at all new in the world of design.
However, this is an artistic statement. It is the most elementary level of art, meant to be direct and understandable to the average viewer. Of course, this quilt was not meant to be accepted or loved by every viewer; most art is not. It is meant to provoke thought. In general: Why might quilts be sacred? Is there a limit to self-expression in quilt form? Personally: Which part of speech (verb, noun, or adjective) do you give the word? (Or does it vary by block?) Does the quilt speak to/for you? If you are a quilter, do you have personal limits for your own self-expression in quilts? What are the limits and why?
On the Cancer Sucks quilt. Our quilt was displayed next to a quilt made by a group for a member who had cancer (she is well now). On a big black background in colorful scrappy patchwork letters it says “F*ck You Cancer.” [ETA: You can see the display here in this photo (NSFW).] Commenters say that the use of f*ck in this project made it more acceptable, if not completely acceptable. So if we exchanged one block in Give a F*ck with a “cancer” block, then it’s okay? We viewed Give a F*ck as a fill-in-the-blank: we all have moments when this is the word with enough oomph to express ourselves—whether we say the word out loud or not. It is a universal feeling that we all express differently.
On exhibiting the quilt. I said it here before: the MQG Board, the organizers of QuiltCon, had some serious intestinal fortitude while jurying the quilt into the show. I assume it surely wasn’t smooth-sailing in the venue, during the convention, and now in the aftermath. But I believe they believed in the mission and message of the quilt and stood by it. As an outsider to exhibition politics, I can say I was surprised and gratified that it was juried-in and then displayed without shame or apology. Neither I nor the Board were surprised by the response. Speaking for myself, I appreciate those who appreciate the quilt and I appreciate those who constructively and thoughtfully criticize the work (whether positively or negatively).
Further context within the show? As mentioned above, there is an aversion to “art” and an exclusion of art from the “modern” sector stated in MQG lectures I attended at QuiltCon. There were only a few quilts in the show that were creative-artistic expressions (as opposed to pure design that might also have internal meaning to the makers). These quilts can be seen as outsiders on the inside and perhaps were unexpected by the audience?
This seems like enough on this for now. I had a great time at QuiltCon and hope to be back here with my own wrap-up next week, after a funeral. The getaway to Austin was therapeutic, but the return to normalcy reminds me there is now a new normal.
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