Today, I finally had the chance to view the Threads of Resistance exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum. I was at the museum when it opened so for a while, I had the room to myself. Soon however, I was joined by a group tour. Rather than detracting from my experience, viewing the exhibit with a racially diverse group of young women and men from UTEC who found pieces that spoke to them increased the power of the exhibit. Hearing one young woman say “This is me” about a piece depicting Justice carrying a sword with the phrase “Come At Me Bro” on it, well, that’s the point, right? That’s exactly why we as artists created these statements in cloth, to convey our feelings through our art and to have them resonate with others.
The Threads of Resistance organizers had a flood of entries from which to select the exhibit pieces (including a few from me). Each one they selected is powerful on its own, but to be in the room with all of the pieces together is almost overwhelming. I highly encourage you to see it if it travels near you. And, if you can get to Lowell tomorrow, one of the curators Sue Bleiweiss will be presenting a gallery talk at 11 AM.
I rescheduled my Creative Play Date to last Friday and had a wonderful day. I met a friend at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to tour the Matisse in the Studio exhibit. We also stumbled upon an exhibit of politically-motivated art, which was particularly appropriate since she is one of the curators of the Threads of Resistance exhibit being developed by SAQA. We toured the bookstores, where I had a heavy shopping day and then had to lug home three beefy books, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the cafe. I should do that more often.
The Matisse in the Studio show was wonderful. It was such a treat to see objects from his studio next to the works he created from them. I, of course, loved seeing the Islamic textiles from his collection.
North African window screen, 19th – early 20th centuries; Matisse in the Studio Exhibit, Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Here are my key takeaways from the exhibit and from Matisse’s work in general:
- Matisse used the same objects as subjects repeatedly. This is a strength of the exhibit, being able to see the chocolate pot or vase itself next to several paintings that include the same pot. Such positioning makes clear just how often Matisse went back to the same objects for inspiration, but with very different results.
- Matisse experimented with different styles. The work that I consider to be his signature style only made up a small portion of the works exhibited. I was particularly struck by two roughly-contemporaneous paintings. One was dark and more realistic and the other colorful and more abstract. And in fact, the more colorful, more abstract one that is in more of what I recognize as Matisse’s style was made four years earlier than the other. The pursuit of one’s voice as an artist can still include experimenting with different styles.
- Matisse continued to experiment and evolve as an artist until the very end of his life. One of the things that I find so inspirational about Matisse is how he continued to create art in old age when he was no longer able to paint like he used to. The paper cutouts of Matisse’s later years are some of my favorite works of his and they only came about because painting was no longer an option for him. Rather than retiring, he found a new medium and continued to create incredible art; I hope to be able to do the same.
Work on my unexpected protest series continued this week with a new piece called “Alternative Facts.” I first created the letter blocks, sewed them together, and then slashed the top and resewed it over and over again. I captured the in-process pictures and created a 33 second video of them; if you’d like to see the steps along the way, here’s the video: Making of Alternative Facts. I quilted the piece in gray threads to reflect that “alternative facts” take something that should be clear in black and white and changes it to gray. I left the quilting thread tails loose to emphasize the messiness this creates when facts become distorted and disputed.
Alternative Facts, 2017. 15″ x 24″
What this piece means to me:
I have not been able to get over my shock over the mere idea that there could be such a thing as “alternative facts.” I can see how deeply divided our country is and it is a division that I want us to fix and believe we need to, but if we cannot even agree on what the facts are, how can we? I accept that people can look at the same facts and reach different conclusions. I accept that there will be differences of opinion. But, if the facts themselves are under dispute and the Administration actually believes there is something called “alternative facts” where can the constructive dialogue that we need to have to heal these divisions begin? I’m afraid that it can’t and that we will be left with just loose threads.