Artistic Endeavors – Protest in Art

Art has been used for many ends, including social criticism.  Honore Daumier, George Grosz, Francesco Goya and William Hogarth are a few of the well known artists who addressed their times through their art.  Graphic Witness, a website devoted to social commentary through graphic imagery from about 1900 on, has some lesser known examples.

Council of War – Daumier

Pillars of Society George Grosz

In these politically fraught and divided times even quilters are using their medium for social comment. The protest quilts exhibited at the recent QuiltCon as I understand it, weren’t part of an organized exhibit, but reflected the views of their individual makers. These quilts addressed women’s rights, guns, incarceration, racism, police brutality, and many other flash point issues.

I have mixed feelings about such quilts in that I look for artistic qualities in how the message is conveyed. Some are heartfelt but I don’t think they’re aesthetically pleasing. I am indeed a snob. Here are a few I felt were effective in combining art and message.

Jessica Wohl White America

Liz Havartine She Was Warned

Juli Smith B4U

Karen Maple Black, Brown and White in Orange

Miriam Coffey The F Word

For a more traditional approach to a social commentary quilt, check out what Love Those Hands At Home is making. And bear in mind that not all social commentary quilts are social protests.

Lucinda Ward Honstain The Reconciliation Quilt (1867)





Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Quilt Shows

9 responses to “Artistic Endeavors – Protest in Art

  1. Pingback: Artistic Endeavors – Quilts And Real World Issues | The Snarky Quilter

  2. The Brown and White in Orange quilt reminds me of Prosperity is Just Around the Corner.

    There is a long history of protest and political/social expression in quilts. One of my favorites (of many, I’ll admit) is Freedom, by Jessie Telfair.
    And the Prosperity quilt is another favorite of mine, as I’ve mentioned before.

    To be effective in messaging, they do need aesthetic power or appeal. So no snobbishness there, I don’t think. It reminds me of a banner at my gym. It says, “PAIN IS TEMPORARY POWER IS FOREVER” or something like that. But the font sizes emphasize “PAIN IS FOREVER.” There actually are several banners hung that have similar design errors. How is it that I am the only one who sees this, and neither the designers nor the execs who approved them did? DESIGN is key, whether the message is intended to inspire physical effort or to express social commentary.

    • Ooh, I should have included “Prosperity” and “Freedom”… Both are effective as art and commentary. Yeah, sounds like your gym needs to work on the details of its banners.

  3. Seems perfectly reasonable to expect quality design in these as in other quilts. And I don’t see it as snobbish.

  4. I stopped here about 30 minutes ago and then I went to Love Those Hands At Home link, from there somewhere else and somewhere else! I’m back to thank you for your post, as always, got me thinking. Snobbery or not I agree with you. Thanks for the QuiltCon link too.

    • Oh, you’re welcome. I hope you enjoyed Kerry’s quilt as I love the quotes she chose. And no, I haven’t made anything that’s social commentary except my OK Make Do quilt.

  5. I’m glad to see you focus on these quilts–there are so many examples of quilts that make social commentary and, yet, the popular conception of quilting is that it’s docile and lady-like. Do you consider any of your quilts to fit this category?

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