Monday, January 30, 2017

Speed Bumps on the Road to Gallery Readiness

I'm passionate enough about my fiber art to seek recognition and a wider audience for it.  That's why I enter my work into juried shows.

In the past few months, I've had my work accepted into shows at two Connecticut galleries, which was thrilling for me.

But both galleries sent me back to the drawing board on my presentation.  Now mind you, I'm not quarreling with their judgment or conclusions.  I'm just telling you what they said.  Because I'm learning how fiber art, viewed in some quarters as an "applied" art, makes the transition to settings usually associated with "fine" art. 

In one case, a juried show at a gallery, I had to take the pieces off the stretcher bars and remount them in a way that appeared cleaner and more finished.  In another case, a gallery show in which I was an invited artist, I was asked to swap out an entire piece and replace it with one that was mounted better.  This time, the rejected piece, Eastham Low Tide, a whole cloth quilt showing a tidal landscape, had a surround of hand painted burlap.  Because the painting on the burlap was uneven, and because the burlap itself had a close association with craft, I was asked to replace this piece with something else.

I have to tell you that Eastham Low Tide has already been accepted into two juried shows, both of them sponsored by local nonprofit art leagues.  I imagine that proprietary art galleries, even art galleries that are co-ops, need to be more exacting about the art they accept because profit is more of a priority for them.  Am I right?

Eastham Low Tide (2015)

I gave the gallery several choices with which to replace Eastham Low Tide, and they chose Foggy Coast because its mounting was superior:  background was a muted neutral color and was not blotchy.

Foggy Coast (2014)
 They also approved of the mounting on the piece below, which is called Penwood Overlook, Fall.  The mounting of this piece has a finished appearance, and the corduroy, despite its utilitarian origin as a home decorator fabric, actually enhances the piece.

For future reference, this gallery is recommending floating frames, and I'm looking into that.  With a floating frame, the idea, if I understand it correctly, is that I would mount a piece on a canvas or on stretcher bars that are exactly its same size.  No surround, just the piece itself, mounted on bars.  (I guess I would have to apply a modest, invisible facing to achieve this goal).

 Then THAT piece would be inserted into another frame that gives it a floating appearance.  Here are a couple of examples.

I think that's the idea.  So, I'm looking into what it's going to take to mount my images in this way. I'm going to start with three--if I can, because these pieces are not standard sizes--and see what happens.

If this is what it takes to make the transition to a fine-art setting, I'm going to give it a try.  But I have to admit that this type of presentation would be prohibitive for my larger quilts, which are free-hanging and not mounted on stretcher bars.  This one, for example, is 40 x 40:

What would it take to put this in a floating frame?  Why should I?  Are the art gallery standards inappropriate for art quilts and fiber arts in general?  And the larger question:  am I willing to make this change in order to allow my work to make the transition to proprietary venues where it will be accepted as "fine" art? 

Have you other fiber artists ever thought about this?  What do you think?

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