Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reflection of the Day 2016, August, part 1

We are vacationing on the lake - which yielded more than two hundred photos of reflections on water. Very difficult to make a selection. It will be shown in two parts.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

To Penis or not to Penis – is that really the question?

Currently there is quite a bit of commotion about censorship in the AQS show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, regarding the piece “I was not wearing a life jacket” by Kathy Nida, which is (a juried) part of the “People and Portraits” exhibition by SAQA. A detailed account of the proceedings can be found on the SAQA blog here.  Several entries on Kathy Nida’s blog   cover the development of the removal, and give a personal account of the distress she has been going through

I fully sympathize with Kathy Nida in this unpleasant affair and am appalled that a venue which claims to be showing art would be so inconsistent in their approach and withdraw a piece of art from a juried show just because one person insisted that this piece was an affront.

Yes, frequently art is controversial, it causes discussions, and it must stay out there for this purpose. (It might have been a way to ‘hide’ the quilt in a cubicle with signs around it saying “Danger! This piece is ruminated to depict a penis, although the artist maker says there isn’t one.” Or something like that. After all, there are breasts to be seen on that quilt as well!) Why go all the way to rob many many other visitors of the event of the chance to see this piece and come to their own conclusions?

Yes, censorship is terrible, and this was a case of censorship. In a country that holds pride on their tradition of freedom of speech. (And likes to go around telling other countries what to do, and how.)
But there is a completely different issue behind this whole affair, which I find even more troubling than the fact that a decision was taken to not show a piece of art in public. Because it was not the board of the venue itself that thought about and then decided on the potentially provocative or too liberally nude character of the quilt in question. This is a case of bad-mouthing a piece of art into a state of non-acceptability by a single person, and – and this is the real issue at stake – the maker’s statement that this is not the case is not being heard. That’s denunciation. 
Or, to put it into a biblical perspective, a breach of the eighth commandment that thou shalt not talk wrongly against thy neighbors. (Sorry – don’t know the exact English formulation as my religious education way back then was in German...)
Or, to put it into a political-historical perspective, a case of residue McCarthyism at its worst, alive and kicking.

We have had too many instance of this kind of treatment between people in the world already. To name only a few, Nazi-times in Germany, Stalin’s rule of terror in the USSR, in Iran during the years after the Islamic Revolution, and yes, during the times of McCarthy in the US. And I am sure one could name many more. The case at issue here is that an act of denunciation by a single person is being acted upon whereas the ‘culprit’ does not get a voice, is not believed, but punished.
Good for Kathy Nida that her work has received a lot of attention through this, I am sure this will help her career quite a bit.
But justice and democracy have suffered a severe blow. Because democracy also means that everybody has the same right to look at things and learn from them, come to an individual conclusion. If one single person cannot deal with interpretating a modern piece of art it is not fair to the others to prevent them from having the same chance. That’s fundamentalism in a severe case.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jurors' comments

The quilt that I had sent to Festival of Quilts this year is the quilt on migration which I made late last year. It did not get accepted intoSAQA’s “Stories of Migration” show, it did not fit the size restrictions for SAQA Europe/Middle East exhibition “Wide Horizons V”, I once again missed the entry deadline for European Art Quilts that I wanted to have it entered into – and it did not get accepted for the Fine Art Masters at Festival of Quilts. By then I was thinking that probably this wasn’t a good quilt after all, despite (or perhaps because of?) the strong emotional attachment that I felt towards this quilt.

I had written up a bit about how it came to be for the QGBI Contemporary Group newsletter in the spring. Because of the limitation of pages in the publication, the original text was edited and several sections had to be cut out. This is the entire text how I had first sent it in:

The refugee crisis and my art

For years it has been on my mind that many people live in war-like conditions, face famine or drought, and finally decide to pack up and go. They leave their home and familiar environment behind and embark on a risky journey in search of better living conditions in one of the richer countries. In my own life experience, going abroad has always been an exciting time. I’ve been privileged in that I met wonderful people from other countries - some of my best friends live in far away places - and it is always a wonderful opportunity to have a bit of an adventure to go and see them. I have left home behind on an exchange trip or for travels, which means I always knew when I would be returning, and I never had to worry about relatives and friends whom I left behind because they were living in safe conditions.
The more it has been worrying me that millions of other people do not have the opportunity to live their lives in as easy and comfortable a situation as I can. That’s how it started that the refugee crisis demanded it appear in my art.
When the European Patchwork Meetings (now renamed as Carrefour Patchwork Européenne) announced the theme of “Imagine” for their challenge a couple of years ago, I juxtaposed the popular song lyrics by John Lennon with a poem by German poet Bertold Brecht, which also starts with a line that is a call to imagine some situation.
A year later, a first group of refugees from various countries, came to our city. They were mostly from Syria, some from Afghanistan and a few West African countries, and I was excited because I thought they introduced a bit of international flair to our rather remote and rural town. In the end of January 2015 I started working with a volunteer network, helping the refugees with applications, doctor appointments, or when they had to go to their interviews in the process of asking for political asylum. I learned very quickly that their international experience differed strongly from any international experience I had had. They were not here on an exchange programme, they were not excited about meeting people from other countries, nor were they curious for new experiences. Many of them just wanted to be left in peace, very few of them had any realistic idea about the kind of country they had come to, and especially the Syrians basically wanted to continue living the way they had been living at home. Men don’t take well to having to deal with women in situations of authority, or they are suspicious about buying meat from a German butcher because it could have been cut with a knife that had also touched pork at an earlier stage.
I taught German to some of them, but many had never had to learn a foreign language before, perhaps had not even been to school for more than a couple of years. The Syrians do not like the Africans, and often they are distrustful of one another, not knowing on which side of the war the others had been involved in back home.
By the time of my increasing involvement many people had drowned in terrible boat calamities in the Mediterranean, and news of hundreds of victims through capsizing boats began to haunt me. When SAQA announced a call for entry for an exhibition “Stories of Migration” I wanted to enter a piece on that topic.
At first I thought I would use some details of the flight of one of the Syrians whom I had got to be friends with. The amount of dollars spent on paying for the refugee smugglers could have been part of the story, the number of attempts needed to cross from Turkey to a Greek island, the duration of the trip in a small and unsafe boat. But I hesitated, as I did not want to draw on an individual’s personal story, using it for my work. Eventually I decided on an abstracted photograph of one boat in the Mediterranean, taken at the moment when helpers were approaching in the dark, and the boat was about to capsize.

The original photo from the internet - 

and what a bit of photoshopping did to it.

I overlaid this abstracted background with a dictionary definition of terms regarding ‘migration’ from my monolingual English dictionary.

The quilt, obviously, is not a happy quilt, and it was not chosen as part of the exhibition. But it drew quite a bit of attention in a small exhibition of my work here in my home town.
Working with the refugees has been one of the most intense and challenging years of my life, and it has definitely affected my art, as two other quilts on that topic of migration in/to Europe followed after this one. Meeting these people has made me a much more politically aware and active person than I had ever been before, although I had never considered myself apolitical. But it has also gone beyond my strength, and recently I had to reduce my involvement because I was bordering on the brink of burn out. I still strongly believe in the necessity to maintain a civil right for political asylum. But as Germany is struggling with the influx of more and more refugees, political extremism is rising and the European Union seems to be on the brink of breaking apart at the moment, I am consciously not planning on making more quilts related to that topic. For a while at least.

By the time the quilt had benn rejected from the Fine Art Masters I was getting to be pretty convinced that this was not a good quilt. Yet I wanted to give it another chance and sent it to the open categories, as a “Contemporary”, and this is how it had been hung.

I was also brave enough to ask for judge’s comments to be sent back with the quilt.
When it came back a few days after the show closed, I then was even braver enough to open the envelope and read what they had written. (I’ve had an earlier experience when judge’s comments seemed so belittling and devaluating that I had actually thought I would never again ask for judge’s comments from FoQ.)
Two were very positive. One read: “Inspiring design, solours of quilting threads go very well with the fabrics,”, and the other said “A strong piece. I like that I can read the writing easily. I also like to see social comment.”
And the ‘grades’ weren’t bad, either. Mostly ‘excellent’ and ‘good’.

Except for the two “Satisfactory” from the third judge for “quilting: design & execution” and “edges: suitable finish, hangs well.” This person also wanted it to be more quilted: “Topical, thoughtful and sensitive quilt. May benefit from more quilting. Well done!”
This is a backside view of the quilt.

Capsized (text messages 8)

Where would more quilting fit in, and how would the quilt benefit from that, I just wonder? But it came back safe and sound, and although it did not win a prize or get a recommendation, I now think that it’s not only my personal involvement with the whole issue – it’s not a bad quilt at all.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dream Collection for SAQA Benefit Auction

As we are heading into the final weeks before the annual SAQA Benefit Auction 2016, I have decided on the title and selection for my very personal "Dream Collection" from amongst the donated quilts.

The title is: Made in Europe  - that is in celebration of the fact that we are currently working on the final preparations for an interesting exhibition by members of the region, which also will be called 'Made in Europe'.

Here is my selection:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trying hard to relax....

After searching for my passport the other day, having left my wallet lying around somewhere outside the home twice within the past two weeks (once on the plane to Birmingham), locking myself out of my hotel room, constantly forgetting stuff, and having to work with my little notebooks for so long to remember all the things I need to get done, I was getting worried I might have an early stage of dementia. Add to this the fact that an aunt of mine did indeed develop early dementia and is now no longer able to recognize even her daughters.
My friends' reactions who had all been trying to convince me that these things were getting to be normal at my age did not really convince me. So I got myself an appointment at the neurologist and he did a few tests. Fortunately he confirmed all my friends' diagnoses, in the EEG no real indicators were found that required further and more intensive observation (at this stage in life).
But he did say that the brain waves showed that I was "totally unrelaxed". This came at a moment when I thought I had indeed been relaxing for a while now - traveling to Birmingham, enjoying my son's school vacation without too many activities or things going on.
So since I came back from the neurologist I have been trying to figure out how to relax. For one thing, I was glad I had already decided and announced at the SAQA meeting that after all the years that I have been doing it now I would be retiring from my role as co-rep for SAQA Europe/Middle East soon. I went to the swimming pool, played the piano...
Today I took a short bike ride to see a friend of mine who is always great to be around because she is always in a good and lively mood. On the way to her house I remembered the slogan "Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers."

I changed that into "... photograph the flowers".

Sunday, August 14, 2016

After the Festival of Quilts

I spent a few days in Birmingham at the Festival of Quilts. I was so busy every single day that I was there that I found no time to post anything. It was absolutely lovely to see so many friends in such a short time, and to be in a 1000%-quilting-environment! By the time I left yesterday afternoon I had actually managed to see every exhibition on the floor, done a bit of shopping, done a few interviews for the German Guild's magazine, and a lot of talking. Of the latter I would not have minded having done more, but I was also very tired by that time, so perhaps it was not that bad a time to leave. Although I probably won't be back next year as I have a few other plans for that summer...
In any case it was very well worth the trip and I am very grateful to my parents who paid for the flight, which had been my birthday present in May!
Perhaps I will post a few pictures of interesting quilts in the next few days, but I don't know yet. Definitely my absolute favorite on the entire was this one from the Young Quilters Groups/School challenge "on the seaside":

Fishergate Primary School York, "Seagulls on the beach looking for picnics!"
We had a very nice SAQA meeting, I spent the evenings with my co-rep Chrisse Seager who had booked me into her hotel and was so gracious to keep driving me back and forth. We've been working together as co-reps so well for the past year that it has really been a wonderful time despite the fact that she stepped in after Maggie Birchenough had to resign due to her fatal illness. It will be sad to leave when it comes to the point...

At the airport I got to be a bit crabby, perhaps because I was tired after these packed days - but somehow all these methods they are now applying for check-in and security somehow are spoiling the fun. Not only was I robbed of my best set of knitting needles on the flight to Birmingham - which I had been allowed to take on board the so-called safest airline of the world only a few weeks ago when I went to Israel. But Lufthansa has now changed every thing to self-check-in, in Munich you don't even get to see a person when checking your luggage. In Birmingham they make you walk miles to the machines where you do the self-check-in, then you have to walk all the way back to drop the bag, and there there are still people at the counter - why could they not do the check-in? Not that I can't do a self-check-in properly, I can very well handle that. But I don't unterstand why we are being forced to deal with machines everywhere and in any possible situation. Wouldn't it make more sense to leave these jobs as jobs for people, to keep them employed and give them an income so they can then be tax-paying members of society? Certainly something I don't understand!

On the plane I was then sitting next to a guy from somewhere Middle East who was constantly biting, no, chewing his nails and watching/playing with his cell phone, and it looked like he was listening to some muezzin. In days like these it does give you a bit of a worry - why is this guy so nervous that he has to be chewing his nails constantly (he wasn't eating his meal either...) I plugged in my music and started some hand stitching on my next Journal Quilt to keep myself occupied and not worry too much.

And today, although that one isn't finished yet, I started piecing the next one, because I only have this coming week to finish both of them if I don't want to be kicked out ... But I am optimistic I will make it.

So it's good to be back home.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


The guys are watching some competition in Rio, and I have done a bit of mindless sewing to recuperate. Mindless sewing as in  Nine-patching the two differently sized 'collateral damages' that arose from the "Dear Jane"-project of the German Patchwork Guild which I foolishly committed myself to at the beginning of the year. And which has by now turned into a topic of a column I write for the Guild's magazine, reporting on my progress (or lack thereof) and emotional tangles that occur with this momentous undertaking. So there is no way I can drop out and let it be. Right now I am not quite so far behind on it as I already have been, but there is still a bit of catching up to do. The collateral damages are two who-knows-when-they-will-be-finished Double Nine Patches which I started when I had managed to forget seam allowances for one of the Dear-Jane-Blocks (not thinking far enough ahead that that size might just pop up as needed later, perhaps), and when I was unguarded enough to 'like' the size that appeared in another block and thought that might make a nice one just as well. Un-like on facebook, 'liking' something like that quickly turns into a committment, but, also, a welcome occasion for mindless sewing when recuperating.

My slowly growing stack of Dear-Jane-blocks (with liberties
taken, and a few extra-curricular items I am not allowed to write
about on the internet before publication dates of the magazine)

The growing stack of Double-Nine-Patches made from 1 1/2 inch strips...

... and the stack of Nine-Patches made from 1 1/4 inch strips,
which will eventually be turned into Nine-Patches, too.

These projects are also welcome for using up scraps from cutting yardage at the stand.
So what was I recuperating from? I spent most of the morning searching for two items. I am not a tidy person, I readily admit that, but of these two items I really knew that I could not have lost them: my passport, and an envelope with over 400 Australian Dollars. The former I had come home with from Israel only four weeks ago, but it wasn't where I usually put my passport to avoid having to search for it high and low, nor in any of the bags I had taken, not in my backpack, the fleece-jacket which I had worn only in German parts of that journey. But I wanted to use it on Wednesday, when I am going to Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. True, Brexit hasn't really happened yet, so I should still be able to travel with only my national ID, but I do prefer to know where my passport is. And the Dollars I also wanted to take to Birmingham with me because instead of trying to get them back into my banking account in New Zealand where they originated from in November - which I have tried, but is too long a story to tell - I will just use those as my travel funds and exchange them into British pounds. Should give me a good amount of spending money, I would think.
Anyway - the dollars appeared first, the envelope turned up in one of my un-filed stacks which need being taken care of, and then my mind was settled enough to forgo searching for the passport, do the last bit of ironing for the July fabric-club selection which is due to be shipped. Then I picked up my son from basketball camp (the house is indeed awfully quiet when he is not around!), and after that my passport jumped at me in the kitchen where I must have accidentally left it after returning from Israel. So everything is alright now, but I just needed to cool down a bit, because I hate searching for things. Every time it happens, I tell myself I will be better organized from now on, I will file away all slips that relate to taxes, I will not let things accumulate in growing unordered stacks... all in vain. At least I know where I can find my airplane ticket - I can always print it out again from the computer! But good intentions remain.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reflections of the day - July

I found so many beautiful reflections in July that I decided to enlarge the selection a bit because it would have been too bad to exclude any of these!