14 December 2007

Debating the merits of politcally themed art

I've not been feeling so great lately (some bizarre sinus infection/cold/cootie that resulted in needing a CAT scan earlier this week - and thanks to all my friends who offered up their cats for the purpose of the test but I think that wasn't the point, there were no furry animals involved) so I've not been real motivated to work on any art. Which - and this makes me very happy - is starting to frustrate me. This makes me glad because it means that I'm finally waking up out of this stupor I've been in for a few months.

So yesterday I pulled out my sketch books and started looking at past ideas for art quilts. And I noticed a trend...

There are a lot of social/political cause sketches in there. I've got two series that have a fairly developed line of ideas.

The first series will be about - and I guess I should just come clean and be honest - things that pretty much irritate the hell out of me. Topics range from the drug industry's new role as seedy pushers to spending my days in gray cubicles doing work that I'm not sure amounts to anything to being plugged into electronics 24/7.

The second series came about after participating in the Yoni challenge on the QuiltArt email list. Its not a topic I am usually quick to create art about. Not because I'm the squeamish type but I have mixed feelings about people making art about their genitals. On the one side, I think its admirable that they are so comfortable and uninhibited...on the other hand, I'm just not sure I really want to see it. (Kind of like when a kid lays on the floor to look up someone's skirt...it just doesn't seem like something you should do.)

But the Yoni challenge on the Quiltart list intrigued me because I had just watched a show on the National Geographic channel about female circumcision. It grossed me out, it enraged me, it make me cringe. So when I heard about the challenge, I decided to make a piece about that. Its pretty graphic, titled "Land of the Sewn Women" - and is currently hiding in my pile of completed works.

After making that quilt, I started doing research about other cultural practices that result in accepted violence against women. I found a lot and started doing sketches for a series. And its important to note that women submit to this because if they don't, they won't find a husband and will become an old maid. Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh...I think I'd be good with being a spinster.

So I guess it would seem that I am heading toward doing more political/social issues in my work. And this realization forces me to pause for several reasons...

The first being that its exhausting. As much as there is a part of me that digs into this stuff and reads article after article on it, it takes a lot out of me. Its difficult subject matter...so why am I drawn to it?

The second being this: what purpose will it serve? Its obvious from how I've treated "Land of the Sewn Women" that I'm hesitant to put it out there. I've always been of the opinon that politcal art is necessary but I've never felt the need to slap people upside the head with it. This, dear readers, creates something of an oxymoron. If I make this work, will I show it?

The last worry revolves around reactions to it. I believe I'm a good person, I try to lead a good life...but there is nothing that will divide people quicker then the subject of politics, religion and sex. Do I risk negative reactions from fellow artists and friends?

These are all difficult questions and they are kicking around in my head. What is it in me that feels the need to take a medium developed to instill comfort and security and trap painful subject matter in it? Do I pursue it? Do I leave it be? Do I make it to satisfy my own need to create it and then hide it away? If I do that, what's the point? Do I continue to skirt the edges of it in order to maintain a certain standing among other artists? Am I just worrying too much? Is it possible to make "friendly" political art?

See? Told you it was exhausting...


FunkyC said...

Last Reason Shoot Down:

Who are your real friends? Do you care what anyone else thinks?

My concerns would revolve more around where the work would be shown and what jurors might say.

Look at all the political work that gets into Quilt National.

Your work is suppose to be about an inner need to express yourself. How could you bury that?

Fibra Artysta said...

That's interesting...I could care less what a juror thinks. But I do care what friends think.

I have issues with how art quilts are judged, anyway. There are still too many traditional quilt rules that they use and if you really want to know, I've been accepted to a lot of juried shows but never won anything.

Barbara H. said...

Don't censor yourself! I think the worse thing you can do is create art with the "audience" in mind, whether that be friends, family, co-workers, jurors, etc. Be true to what YOU want to express. Don't worry about shows until you are finished, and then the right shows will appear. It works for me!

Deb said...

I think life is too short, and too busy to do meaningless, looking to please others, type of work. You must do what is important to you, what is dwelling inside...pleasant or not.