This email is just in from Christine Nielsen from Nova Scotia, one of my online students, who read an article I wrote recently for the Ragged Cloth Café. The article was an examination of the importance of a focal point to composition as it tackled the dangerous question of whether composition is required for a work of art to be declared a “work of art.”
Christine sent a photo of her artwork in progress along with this discussion to add to what I had said on Ragged Cloth Café:
I read your piece on Ragged Cloth Café and thought you’d be interested in this. This is an in-progress shot of a piece which is now done and in a local show. I can’t show you the final construction because a lot of it obscured what I wanted you to see.
I took the Darned Quilt idea and applied it to the most formal background construction you can imagine. I recreated the Nova Scotia tartan through quilting and applique and couching. I then used the darned quilt technique to deconstruct it. The deconstruction has meaning within the total effect of the piece. It wouldn’t mean the same thing if I had not started with such a formal and recognizable background.
BTW, the whole piece is called Trapped: Paradise or Prison? and is set inside a constructed lobster trap with some other related items. The deconstruction is truly the background to the entire piece.
By my way of thinking, Christine made a background when she reproduced the tartan. When she applied the Darned Quilts methods of shifting, repositioning and darning into place a set of shapes cut from the tartan, she began composing. There was a decision-making process ongoing as she worked, a thought process that making the tartan did not require. She was designing in a more formalized way, a way that took more effort than mere repetition.
Christine had to think about the nature and sizes of the shapes she cut and about the ways in which she could move them around and reposition them. Although a more thoughtful way of working than merely laying down the stripes of a mock tartan, the result of this effort might still have been understood by a viewer as a background.
The addition, however, of the three topical motifs, the schooner, the fiddle and the lighthouse, cemented the deconstructed tartan as a statement about Nova Scotia. Emblems of the Scottish diaspora in the New World, these symbols collectively identify a culture and give emotive value to the work.
What I want to see now, though, is what Christine has yet to send me–a photo of the finished piece on display. How about it, Christine?!