Friday, July 25, 2008

What's In a Name?

There's an ongoing debate about what terminology to use to describe what it is people like me produce. I've heard all sides of the argument for and against the term "art quilt," including the fear that mentioning the word "quilt" immediately throws you into the "craft" category (thus the need to tack "art" to it), and the sense that since other mediums, like oil painting and sculpture, don't automatically add "art" to what they do, neither should we (thus are we being pretentious here?). I myself use the term "textile art" now to avoid that nearly universal connection the word "quilt" has to something on the bed, something you cuddle up with, but also because I started playing with things that technically were not quilts although related to them or to textiles in general. It seemed a good idea to have a more all inclusive term in case my playing with paint or beading or embroidery produced stand alone pieces definitely not quilts. Yet, no sooner does the term "textile art" pass my lips than I find myself following up with the explanation, "primarily art quilts." I just can't seem to totally throw off the term. After all, most of my work really is done in the form of a quilt.

During the course of my reading lately, I keep running across the term "art glass." No, this is not new to me - I've been aware of this term forever. But it was only today that I made the connection that here was an art medium like quilts that needed to add the clarification of "art" to distinguish it from utilitarian wares. In this Wikipedia entry, there's a definition of Glass Art so plain and simple: "...the use of glass as an artistic medium." The same logic can be applied to quilt art: the use of quilting as an artistic medium. For me, that ends the argument. If it's good enough for the glass people, it's good enough for me.

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