I’m back from Athens, OH, having attended part of the Quilt National opening. I thought this sign was charming. It reminds me of similar signs from my childhood: “Welcome, National Association of Floor Cleaning Apparatus!” or “Welcome, DAR/AFLCIO Local 238!” Be sure and eat at Cutler’s, now!
It was quite an honor to be included in Quilt National, of course, but a greater pleasure to get to go there and meet the others and see their incredible work. If you’re someone like me, sort of introverted and with the social skills of a rock, you don’t get out much. In fact, you may avoid social occasions altogether.
However, I had no problems at QN. The artists at QN were a bunch of really intelligent, thoughtful people. That comes through in their work. Their artwork is enlivened by their life experiences as (among other things) domestic violence researchers, retired attorneys, occupational therapists at psychiatric facilities. I think that makes a real difference.
Posters, Crater by Bonnie Buckham, Entre Nous by Alice Beasley
The exhibit was organized by the director, Kathleen Dawson, and the staff at the Dairy Barn. They did a marvelous job and thought of everything. Not only did we each receive hard-cover catalogs of the exhibit, but they’d printed up posters with our work. The name tags also had a small picture of our work, which served as a nice ice-breaker when approaching another person. They also made sure there were tons of lovely crudites and such on hand: when things get awkward, stuff a cheese puff in your mouth! Organizing an event like that has to be a sisyphean task, but they all truly did a wonderful job.
Here’s a copy of the catalog of the exhibit, “Quilt National 2011″. It’s available through the Dairy Barn’s website, Amazon, and “other places where fine books are sold.” It is conveniently open to my work, Farmer Brown, shown on the lefthand page. On the righthand page, we have Full Measure by Joan Sowada – a delightful piece by a delightful person.
I suspect that the artists and the folks at the Dairy Barn would prefer that people see the artworks either in person or in the catalog, so I’m not going to post shots of individual works. However, to give you an idea of the space and the exhibit, here are a few photos of that.
Here my work, Farmer Brown, is peering over people’s shoulders and preparing to club them with his straw hat.
Here’s looking at you.
A lousy shot of the Dairy Barn in Athens, where the exhibit is held. The Dairy Barn website delicately refers to its originally being part of the Athens State Hospital complex. The State Hospital has also variously been known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, Asylum for the Insane, Southeastern Ohio Mental Health Center, etc.
Some would regard this as a checkered past, something to be swept under the doormat; I find it fascinating. There was a time when one didn’t have to do too much to end up in an asylum. Being a “difficult” or rebellious child, getting pregnant out of wedlock, being special needs/mentally handicapped, or an elderly person whose kids didn’t have the means to take care of you would be sufficient. Once you were in, depending on the era, you might be treated with kindness – or you might be the recipient of shock treatments and lobotomy and subjected to random cruelties.
With those thoughts much on my mind, I ascended the hill near the Dairy Barn to view the facilities, whose buildings are now part of Ohio University.
This is a side view of what would have been the hospital administration building. It now houses Lin Hall and the Kennedy Museum. I was unfortunately not as pleased with the museum as I could have been. To whit, it would have been nice to know that the museum was tiny and half the exhibits were closed before I donated money.
A shot taken inside the Kennedy Museum. At least I got a fun photo out of my visit.
This is an art installation named “Buttress” by DeWitt Godfrey. It was worth driving up the hill just to see this, the lovely contrast between old architecture and modern art, and the similarity of both structures decaying.
A shot of the exterior of one of the wings of the former hospital. The doors which go nowhere were presumably for fire escapes. They’ve probably long since rattled themselves to death or were yanked down and melted into razor blades.
As you can see, the old girl is showing her age. The entire facility needs some TLC.
The roads in the facility are old-school brick roads. Downtown Athens has a number of these as well.
I think this may be the old tuberculosis ward, where asylum patients with TB were sequestered. Evidently one of the approaches to dealing with tuberculosis was isolation.
I’m sure Jesus would be glad to hear this.
Heaven knows what this building was or is now. I’m fascinated by the fact that it’s so pristine-looking, at a distance at least. I suppose I shouldn’t dwell on my loathing for brick coupled with Greco-Roman revival architecture.
Being a cheerful soul, I dropped in on one of the cemeteries.
I started thinking of this as “the valley of the forgotten souls.” I’m glad these folks at least got buried. I recently read a dismal article about psychiatric patients being cremated and having their remains stuffed in cans, which proceeded to sit in an abandoned room and quietly rust.
Of course, my trip wasn’t all art exhibits and fun visits to former psychiatric facilities. No, there was the lovely hour-and-a-half drive back to Columbus to catch my plane, during which I tried to drive safely and not fall asleep. I dimly remember trees, church steeples, and barns.
Do you know that no one in Ohio speeds? It’s true. Here in California I’m a slow driver, constantly having to veer into the rightmost lane to stay out of people’s way. In Ohio, when I’d move to get out of people’s way, they’d screech in right behind me, as if to take advantage of my going two miles over the limit. When I discussed this with my husband over the phone, he gave an evil cackle and said that EVERYBODY in that area and the neighboring states knows that you don’t speed in Ohio. Then he began tossing out terms like “fascist” and implied that horrible things happen to those who speed. I do wish he had discussed this with me before I made the trip.
Anyhow, I did make it back to Columbus safely and without a speeding ticket. With a couple of hours to kill before my flight, I visited the Franklin Park Conservatory. It’s a botanical oasis on the outskirts of Columbus, with a nice collection of Chihuly’s art glass.
I was so enchanted with the juxtaposition of plants and Chihuly’s work that I started wondering about unexpected ways to display fiber-based pieces. Typically I just slap mine on the wall and I’m done with it. Perhaps I could push the boundaries a bit?
One of the exhibits of the conservatory featured the release of newly hatched butterflies. On some level I just don’t “get” it – why import 900 cocoons per week just so you can hatch the butterflies out, have them die, then do the whole thing over again the next week? Why not try to breed or conserve them? But maybe I don’t know the whole story. Maybe butterflies are as plentiful as rats, wherever these came from, veritable nuisances that you call out a pest controller to eliminate. Anyhow, they’re pretty.
While I was there, another woman was stumbling around with a small digital camera held at arm’s length. Staring at the LCD display with a distinctly slack-jawed expression, she staggered up and down steps and paths, careening into fellow visitors as she pursued a fluttering butterfly. She was such a sight that I thought about photographing her, but that would have been mean. (Yes, writing about her is probably mean as well, but at least this way she can remain anonymous.) I wanted to tell her to relax and turn off the camera. You’re in this big, lovely greenhouse surrounded by the sounds of trickling water, lush plants, the splashing of koi, the scents of exotic flowers, fluttering butterflies. Why not use the camera in your brain?
That said, I did take a few photos of my own. Yes, I know; I’m a hypocrite. Here are a couple more butterflies:
This is a neat little structure:
There must be a hobbit around here somewhere.
A banana plant with bloom. I was really glad to see this. One of the pieces at Quilt National, Banana Bloom by Barbara Watler, depicted, well, a banana bloom. (When you get this year’s Quilt National catalog, flip to page 18. It’s an incredible piece, worked entirely in saturated colors on a dark background.)
I love the juxtaposition of Chihuly’s work with water. Again, what sorts of juxtapositions would work with fiber? I’m not interested in relegating a fiber painting to the supporting status of, say, a tablecloth, but what sorts of environmental things could we do? Room dividers? Hangings from banisters? Or is that really too utilitarian?
Hanging in the palm house.
A closeup of the chandelier. This is what alien lifeforms should look like.
Part of one of the greenhouses. After all, this was a conservatory. I shouldn’t have Chihuly glass in every image.
This is a ceiling comprised of art glass. It’s as though one is swimming in an ocean of exotic lifeforms. Once again – is this a treatment which would work with fiber?
I want to leave people with the following thought: I read or hear a lot of people saying that they’d like to apply to Quilt National, but their work just isn’t good enough. I felt the same way. I always try to bring my A game to every exhibit I apply to, but the nature of that A game changes over time. That is, my A game from five years ago might be this year’s C or D game, and certainly not as good as the best work others are making.
However, if you consistently do your very best work and put your heart and brain into it, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Give it a try. Go for it, whatever your heart’s desire is. At the very worst, you’ll be out a few bucks for the application and you’ll have a nice piece which some other show will probably be happy to exhibit.