Note: I sat on this piece for months because I was, frankly, scared of how it would be received. This is NOT intended to make fun of artists, art quilters, or the work of Kathy Nida. This piece is what I imagine those who find the work of artists like Nida offensive think when they imagine what an art quilter does. I have a very low tolerance for those who are immediately and automatically offended by depictions of the human body. I also have a low tolerance for those who dismiss or denigrate art because it makes them uncomfortable, and for those who assume that an artist is just tossing off shocking things to get attention. I suppose the point would have been more easily made had I written this from the perspective of one of those people, but that was not as interesting as trying to do it this way.
I took a risk by posting this. I have probably failed in what I was trying to express. But lately I've been reading another humorist who often has the same problem, and he keeps going anyway, so I guess I will too.
And just so you know, I DO know the difference between the vagina and the vulva. However, for the purposes of this piece, it was better—and, I admit, funnier—to use "vagina." Despite the inaccuracy, in the common vernacular, most people tend to use the term "vagina" as an all-inclusive term for female gentialia, inner and outer. Therefore, to me it made more sense to use "vagina." It was a conscious choice, not a mistake.
Sure, you may be the prince of patchwork and the queen of free-motion quilting, but if you’re starting to feel that unmistakable sense of ennui after finishing your latest quilt then you need to break free from your bias bindings and start experimenting in the world of art quilts! Anybody can whip out a nice soft blankie to snuggle up under, but you can’t be satisfied with mere comfort quilts. No, you need to make a statement, and despite what your mom says, you can indeed make a statement through quilting. Here are some statements you might consider making with your first art quilt:
- I have a vagina and I LOVE IT.
- Homelessness is bad, racism is wrong, and this vagina will help you see that.
- Some women living under oppressive regimes have no vaginas.
- Global warming is killing our environment. Plus: vagina!
Don’t be afraid to dive into the art quilt pool even if you have no formal training. Talent and skill are no barriers to the art world, and as you’ll see, you don’t even need a sewing machine to create stunning pieces that will be the talk of your next guild show. And remember, if someone says your quilt is the most offensive thing they’ve ever seen and you should be ashamed of yourself because, for goodness sakes, there are children here—then you’re doing something right!
Here are just a few ways you can shake up your stitchery and topple the patriarchy through art quilting:
- Found object quilting. Get out of your fabric rut and discover new media by rooting through a trash bin or walking through a condemned building. Greasy take-out containers, flattened soda cans, and used syringes will add lots of color and texture to your quilts and wadded up plastic shopping bags make great vaginas!
- Deconstructive quilting. Show your contempt for the trite and mundane by taking a traditional quilt and thrashing the living daylights out of it. Beat it with large rocks. Spit on it. Tromp on it with muddy hiking boots, then give it to an untrained Labrador puppy. Finally, tie it to the bumper of your car and do some doughnuts in the gravel parking lot of a seedy strip club. And when you hang its shredded carcass on the wall, give it a vibrant and thought-provoking title, such as Check Out This Vibrant and Thought-Provoking Vagina.
- Performance quilting. Who says an art quilt has to be a static piece chained to a wall? Bring new life into your art quilts by becoming a part of the art yourself. Stand on a busy street corner (naked, of course) holding a rotary cutter and an uncooked Cornish game hen as a statement about farm subsidies. Or, hanging upside-down inside an abandoned warehouse (naked), chant the lyrics to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” in a deep monotone while waving large quilt blocks in semaphore signals. And, for the ladies, the best part of performance art? Built-in vaginas!
However you decide to make your statement, be prepared to suffer your share of ignorance and intolerance. Most people are frightened of art that challenges and stimulates the mind and it is your responsibility as an artist to show them vaginas anyway. Ignore all those naysayers who claim you’re just being shocking in order to get attention. If all you wanted was attention, you’d be quilting penises instead.