Friday, September 12, 2014

A multi-personality self portrait

A few months ago, PAQA-S (Professional Art Quilters' Alliance - South) held its annual international show.  This year's theme was ARTQUILTSwhimsy.

Those of us who were selected for the show were also given an option to submit a small  (8.5"x11")  self-portrait.  Here's mine:

As you can see, the stamp filter on Photoshop helped me produce 4 black and white "Debbie's" from this photo. 

And then some Photoshop layers magic allowed me to pose each black and white Debbie in front of one of my quilts... here are two of them: 

Tikkun Olam
Pretty in Pink

There was some method to my madness of creating a split personality self-portrait.  It came at a time when discussions of "artistic voice" seemed to be popping up all around me:  people questioning their artistic "intentions," berating themselves for not having artistic "clarity," bemoaning what they saw as scatter-shot experimentation. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the value of developing an artistic voice and creating work that has the distinct and unique stamp of a particular artist.  There's something very satisfying about making art that people recognize as belonging to you.   And that doesn't even begin to cover the benefits of exploring, nurturing, maturing, and evolving a technique and a style over time.

Still, discussions like that can awaken the grumbling, curmudgeonly contrarian within me.  Is a singular artistic voice really the be-all and end-all of creativity?  If we strive to be recognizable, how similar should our pieces be?  When does the similarity of pieces make an artistic voice repetitious and boring?  What if we have (*gasp*) many artistic voices?  Is this a personality flaw?

So with my very abject apologies to James Thurber and Dr. Seuss, I offer this little tongue-in-cheek limerick to accompany my portrait.  I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but perhaps it will allow us all to lighten up and give ourselves a break:

Artistic Voices
As artists we’re told that we really should hone
an artistic “voice” we can claim as our own.

But sometimes my voice just won’t sing in one pitch,
that places my work in a singular niche.

There are so many tunes running round in my head
 that I try to express with both needle and thread.

So my thinking’s evolved, though I don't claim it's flawless,
I don’t “sing” with one, I have my own chorus.