Artistic Endeavors – Opinions

Skirting the issue that what IS art is a matter of opinion all by itself, I’ll close my year of artistic endeavors with opinions on art related issues.

First, the question of who owns rights to a quilt has vexed commentators. The saga of art collector Will Arnett and the quilters of Gee’s Bend shows the unequal level of business savvy between those who license quilt images and the quilt makers who were happy to get $200 for a quilt. Some Gee’s Bend quilters filed lawsuits challenging their handshake agreements with Arnett.

As a general matter, copyright is inherited, like any part of one’s estate—an immaterial heirloom. In some countries, like Australia, artists receive royalties on a resale, so if a quilt were purchased for $200 and next sold to a museum for $20,000, the artist would benefit, receiving some percentage of the increase. In the United States, at least for now, there are no resale royalties; copyright can police only the most egregious instances of appropriation, paying scant dividends on use of images of the work. But at least, as Ms. Pettway [one of the quilters] puts it, “it acknowledges the quilter.”

More generally, ownership of a work of art is a slippery concept.
“The first lesson that prospective art buyers have been learning is that artworks aren’t yours to do with whatever you want.”

Then, there’s copyright on a painting (or other work of art.) “When you buy an original painting, you buy the physical object to have and enjoy. In most circumstances, you own only the artwork, not the copyright to it.”

Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio had a recent post about the whole copyright/cultural appropriation debate.

Joe Cunningham takes on Calvin Klein and a host of condescending attitudes towards quilts and their makers. He begins his rant with,
“Even today, when the walls between High and Low art are beginning to crumble, when the divisions between Art and Craft have less and less meaning, there is such a long way to go before quilt artists can get anywhere in the art world that I am resigned to the concept that I will not live to see the day when a quilt artist can be seen as an artist pure and simple.” He then moves on to a recent Calvin Klein ad campaign that features quilts as floor coverings, and A.P.C., a French company that sells limited edition quilts made in India.

Another choice quote, “Sophisticates justify using old quilts and the graphic ideas they contain using statements that imply that quilts were once made in a long ago, grandmotherly place, and that these sophisticates are now using them in this fun, quirky way to simulate some sort of interest in the past.” I’ll leave the rest of Joe’s spot on comments for your discovery.

I want to end with an opinion on the role of fear in art making. Julie Fei Fan Balzer addressed this topic in an Instagram post. “This quote [Fear tricks us into living a boring life.” – Donald Miller] struck such a chord with me. I get a lot of art related questions that I think are motivated by fear: “What will happen if I do xyz?” “What should I use to do xyz?” “How should I do xyz?” The fact is: I know nothing more than you. In fact, I might know less. I didn’t go to art school. I just tried things. Some of them worked. A lot of them failed. I used up tons of precious art supplies doing stupid things. I still do! I burned time and wasted effort and I’m so glad that I did. All of those failures, all of that waste, all of the mistakes — they all made me fearless in my art making. Experience has taught me that I can paint it over, flip the page, throw it out, learn to live with it, scrape it off, and sometimes even “fix” it. It’s all okay. So if you’re staring at a pile of art or craft supplies, throw away the fear. It’s time to find out what happens if you {insert your own adventure here}.”

She has done a podcast on artistic fear you may want to listen in on. The meat of her discussion begins about 1.5 minutes in. Of course, the book Art and Fear is a great resource on this topic.

I have enjoyed sharing my discoveries with you and hope to feature new ones in 2019 every so often, as the spirit moves me.

9 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Snark

9 responses to “Artistic Endeavors – Opinions

  1. I appreciate this post, the links and the many thoughts you have shared here on your blog – not to mention your work/play and the process that got you to the end (which doesn’t always mean finished!). If enough of us keep plugging away, all the better for the world in general and the art world in particular, IMO.

  2. I lean more toward thinking all art is derivative as much as it is unique, which certainly muddies the ownership/copyright issue further.

  3. Fascinating post with really good links. It is very disrespectful of big business to take the work of others and hijack it for their own financial gain and creative credibility. Which leads me onto thinking about the whole repurposing and upcycling enterprises. Food for thought, thank you for this post.

  4. Copyright has become such a ‘sticky’ subject… and has brought out the best and worst in creatives lately. The ‘fear’ issue comes from not feeling capable of measuring up to “peers or contemporaries”. Of being critiqued, called out by the Quilt Police and not owning your choices good or bad. Its how we learn… what works and what doesn’t work and we have to keep in mind when listening to a critique, that is is a subjective opinion!!! Not necessarily the consensus. My favorite part of creating is playing the ‘What If” game… sometimes it works and sometimes not so much!!!

    • Copyright is such a two edged sword. In theory it protects the person who created the art, but in practice it seems to benefit those who hold legal rights to the art. Yes, it’s hard to come clean and say, this piece isn’t very good, but it’s necessary as the first step to figuring out why it isn’t very good. And that’s what a good critique helps you do.

I Love to Hear From You

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.