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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Musings: Art outside the Box Lost Art:Down the Rabbit Hole and Back Again


If art is about love ( not romantic love, but passion and expression) what do we do about love lost? Recently I spoke with someone who  had an odd and unpleasant experience with a gallery that  tried to steal work of hers. They did not succeed, due to her savvy and  good sense.  The gallery was shameless if nameless.The real damage from that kind of thing is that the world is never the same after that. When someone chooses to steal or deceive you for theft, you've fallen down the rabbit hole, and, like Alice, much will not make sense the same way again. It opened an old wound for myself. Eight years ago, I had a number of works stolen.


 Theft is a  rude shock to all that, particularly for those of us who have lived in the quilt world. 


The medievals had a notion about what made a good village. You took the prettiest girl, put her on the best horse and gave her a bag of gold to carry. If no one bothered her, the horse or the gold, it was a good village. Or everyone was sleeping.


The quilt world has always been  that kind of village. It's the land of everyone's mother and grandmother.  So it's been painful to watch as it's become acknowledged as art we've had a rise in theft, deception and shoplifting. The art world is a less virtuous place. It has a history of theft, deception and wrong ownership. It does indicate that quilts are being taken seriously as art. You don't steal something with no value.


It does make you wonder. Why would they do this? Need or greed? Rage? Self-righteousness? What need could be so strong? It's not like needing to feed a child or clothe someone.  The effort to sell a piece without it's provinance is silly. Most art sells for the price it sells for because we know who made it.It's value is largely in the name of the creator. There's almost no way to know why.The heart is a labyrinth.


Can we instill the same kind of decency you see in the quilt world into the art world? Good luck. It's much more ego driven and that seems to open some sticky doors on issues of morality and basic honesty. I've had even "honest" dealers remove labels from quilts without permission because they were afraid someone would contact me personally. Their fear of my potential lack of honesty destroyed theirs.They never understood what my problem was. It was, of course, all about them. And it was, of course several of those unlabeled quilts that disappeared.


 I let the quilts go, knowing they were really gone. What I know, is that even lost, those quilts changed me. I am a stronger artist for having made those quilts. They stretched my skill. They taught me to see something different. They were stepping stones in my path. 


Most pieces leave me at some point. Usually they sell. If they sell to someone I know, I may still have access to them, but not always. But all of my work stands in different places of my development and that cannot be taken or sullied. 


In a way, art is the byproduct of living as an artist. Sort of like silk is the byproduct of having silk worms. My real product is my own skill, vision, ability and responsibility to the things I'm able to create. The art just happens on the way.

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