I will preface this post by saying that much of what I am going to say will contradict itself, but all of it is true.
I work abstractly.
I work with a narrative in my head that may or may not be relevant to the piece I am working on.
Creating realistic images using cloth is never my goal, but I do sometimes work towards abstracting an image.
Sometimes I name my quilts after things that are real.
As an Alaskan artist, I am occasionally tempted and sometimes do succumb to the pressure to play the part, but only if it feels right.
Berry Picking is about all of the above.
It is berry picking season in these parts. And while I am not partaking this year, I have in the past. You can read about my brief but very enjoyable canning experience a few summers back in this post.
Berry picking triggers the gatherer in all of us. Training the eye to find a particular color and shape and then do that for hours on end is oh-so satisfying. There is nothing like holding that bowl of repetition in your hands.
It also speaks of leisure. The idea that I could right now take an afternoon and pick berries seems so decadent, so full of the freedom I currently do not have. The sun is shining, the air is cool and inviting, and I wish I were somewhere in a thicket with a bucket in my hand.
In 2014, The Alaska Contemporary Art Bank (ACAB) purchased Berry Picking for their collection. The ACAB is a lending library. State of Alaska agencies and departments, legislative offices, and the university system can borrow art work from the collection to display in their offices and buildings for the general public to enjoy. Since 1975, the ACAB has acquired 700 pieces of art. From the 300 pieces submitted that year, ACAB purchased 11 new works and Berry Picking was one of them.
To celebrate the purchases there was an open house at the Alaska State Council on the Arts offices where the work was currently on display. During the opening, I ran into a fellow who was part of the art selection process, and he asked me, “How is your piece about berry picking?”
This happens when you work abstractly. People want to see a direct connection between what you have named the piece and what they are seeing.
I made this piece during berry picking season.
I thought about images like these.
I tried to mimic those colors, but not in a realistic way.
But the real truth is that the berries where chairs before they were berries. I know, but that is sometimes how things work. As an artist you might start out with one idea, but by the time it is all said and done, you have worked it until it is another idea.
So the honest answer to that man would be all of the above. And the chair part too–which if I were neat and tidy, I wouldn’t even tell you about, right? But I already did here.
For me, what is first is color, line, shape, and if at all possible the use of traditional pieced quilt patterns. My goal is to create exquisite tension between these things. I frequently use pattern and repetition to achieve that goal.
And while I am working there is always a narrative in my head playing. Maybe it is the Olympics, maybe it the latest book that I am listening to, or maybe it is the desire to go berry picking in the sweet sunshine of August.
And sometimes I make sure the name does a certain amount work for the piece. I could have called the quilt Deconstructed Chairs, but do you think the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank would have bought that quilt?