Tuesday, November 06, 2018

A White History of Art - Art with Fabric Blog Hop

Welcome to the fall 2018 edition of the Art with Fabric blog hop. I'm thrilled to be participating again and would like to thank Alida for all of her hard work :-)

A White History of Art

A White History of Art
When Alida said that the theme would be colour, I'm not sure that I saw the "favourite" in front of it. For me colour is everything! I had a few ideas and when I mentioned them to my daughter, she suggested that I watch the BBC documentaries, History of Art in Three Colours. It was a great series that examined the role of gold, blue and white in art. I made notes on each documentary but the third one had me sketching - a very good sign!

I knew that I wanted images representing the shift in how we see art that was partially caused by the role of the colour white in art history.

The premise of the White documentary is that during the Renaissance, white art, particularly the sculptures of the Greek and Roman times, were seen as representing purity, simplicity, and elegance. White slowly evolved to represent the elite art of the establishment and eventually the superior white of conquerors.

The White of the Renaissance

The top corner images represent the Greek and Roman marble sculptures that were so admired from the Renaissance to the early 19th century.
Marble bust of a Goddess
In the top space are free motion quilted or embroidered words: purity, elegance, virtues, and simplicity. 
Marble torso of a man
In the top centre is a piece representing a white honey dish, made by the potter Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood experimented for years before coming up with the perfect white glaze for pottery.
White honey dish in a style made by Josiah Wedgwood.
White as elitist

The purity of white that was so revered from Renaissance, slowly changed from elegant and virtuous to represent an elitist, cold and sterile perfection in the modern era. As described in the documentary, one of the artists who started art's journey toward this exclusive and elitist path was James Abbott McNeill Whistler, an American who lived mostly in England. 
Representation of a Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl by Whistler
Through his paintings and the manner in which he displayed his art, Whistler represented a world where art was less approachable and more exclusive. He was one of the first artists to present his paintings on white walls with large spaces between each painting. Before this time, paintings were usually hung on walls with very little space between them, almost from floor to ceiling. 

This change, which was eventually called the white cube, resulted in art galleries, and the art within, to be seen as special spaces that were less accessible to the general public. The image below is the White Cube.
White cube - a huge shift in how we view art
During the years that followed, many modern artists started rebelling from this view of art. One of these is my daughter's favourite artist, Marcel Duchamp. In 1917 he created Fountain. My image isn't that obvious but it's a very white porcelain urinal. This was part of Duchamp's use of "ready-mades", everyday objects seen as art.  
Fountain - questioning what we see as art
From Duchamp, the documentary takes a journey to the fascist environment in Europe around the Second World War. It would seem that Hitler, Franco and Mussolini were huge fans of the purity of white marble. They had buildings, sculptures and monuments built to represent the new era. At this time, white is seen as austere and superior - the blanc moral. It is the colour of conquerors. 
The fascist view of white art
The White documentary approached the history of art from a different point of view. I found it all very fascinating. My hope for the future is that art starts being more accessible as it is shared and seen across the world through the internet. I also believe that the definition of art is also changing as people who would never have considered themselves artists a couple of decades ago are now seeing themselves and are being accepted as such. I suspect that the white history of art is far from finished!

What I learned
  • The background is an improvisation of white and off-white batiks that I used to make the background diamonds of the Kingfisher Stitch-Along blocks. 
  • I used many techniques to create this piece. I started with the centre panel of the White Girl. I wanted to make her three dimensional since there is no reason for a dress to be flat! I even pleated the top of her dress. It took a lot of experimenting but eventually I managed to get it all together.
  • Next came the marble torso and bust. For the torso, I was able to use an image, freezer paper, a light box and free motion quilting (FMQ) to get a fair semblance of a ripped torso. I didn't have any luck with that technique for the bust of the Goddess. I ended up using some photo transfer medium to create it. Unfortunately it turned out more grey than white. I covered it in white gauze to get a paler colour.
  • The white honey pot was a lot of fun to make. I used a shimmering tulle for the background and then used some shiny sheer fabric for the pot. I even added some metallic thread through the bobbin in the FMQ. Finally I found some perfect lace to go around the tulle to give it the look of a table cloth.
  • The fountain was next. In hindsight, I wish that I had chosen an image that showed it from a different angle so that it looked more like a urinal. I used a rougher, looser woven fabric for the background, with the look of burlap - to contrast with the shininess of the satin of the Fountain.
  • The last two images were commissioned by Mussolini. There is the marble obelisk which has Mussolini's name engraved upon it and the marble statue of a boxer at the Stadio dei Marmi in Rome. 
  • I added words that were used in the different eras to talk about white. Some are embroidered while others are FMQ. The latter are much more legible but the embroidery adds texture.
Related links
Linking parties
I will be linking this post to many linky parties. Why not check out what everyone else is doing? Below you will find the links to the other participants in the blog hop. Check out the great art with fabric😊  Tuesday Colour Linky PartyLinky Tuesday, Midweek Makers, Off The Wall Friday, TGIFF, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop?, Friday Foto Finish, Finished or Not Friday, Needle & Thread Thursday, Finish It Up Friday, Monday Making, Main Crush Monday, Design Wall Monday, Moving It Forward, What I Made Monday

Project details


A White History of Art, based on the History of Art in Three Colours, WHITE
17½" x 17¾"
Materials: batik, cotton, satin, tulle, gauze, lace, burlap-type fabric, stabilizer, embroidery floss, beads, felt, metallic thread, Kimono silk thread
Techniques: photo transfer medium, improv piecing, markers, beading, embroidery, appliqué, FMQ, thread colouring.

Art with Fabric Blog Hop Schedule

Monday, November 5, 2018 - Day 1
Tuesday, November 6, 2018 - Day 2
Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - Day 3
Thursday, November 8, 2018 - Day 4
Friday, November 9, 2018 - Day 5



34 comments:

  1. I love your essay-in-quilt. So fascinating! Lately I have noticed pictures of quilters' spaces where they have their entire walls filled with miniature quilts, and I loved it and want to emulate it (just need to make many more quilts!) I didn't realize that it wasn't revolutionary, but a return to the way things used to be. Down with the white cube!

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    1. Thanks! I agree with the white cube. My daughter has agreed to arrange my walls gallery style. I can't wait!

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  2. You really put a lot of thought into your project and your quilt. I love the dress, and I'm sure it was a bit of a challenge. I need to add that documentary to my list!

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    1. Thanks Wendy! I really hope that you get a change to watch the three episodes. It really is worth it...and yes, that dress was quite the challenge :-)

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  3. Fascinating project - you did a fantastic job on all the detail!

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  4. It's really awesome. I am very impressed and can't wait to hang it in my room.
    And I will say this time and time again, the fountain is one of the most important works of art in history. I love that you added it to the quilt!

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    1. Thanks Sweetheart! I'm really glad that you like it, and of course it couldn't be a white history of art without the Fountain :-)

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  5. I enjoyed your post!! Your piece is truly inspirational. Lots of different techniques.

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    1. Thanks! It was a challenge but a lot of fun trying out the different techniques - I'm just glad that I didn't have to start too many of the panels over :-)

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  6. how interesting to learn about the history of color use!

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  7. Thanks for your summary of the history of white in art. I think I'm stuck in the 19th century, because I still love the classic Greek and Roman art, and am not much of a fan of modern art, outside of Monet. This was interesting, and your interpretation is wonderful. You are an artist!

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    1. Thank you so much Susan! I'm not really sure what I like most now. Although I appreciate modern art much more, I do like art that either makes me smile or that is beautiful. I sure understand where you're coming from :-)

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  8. Great post (and quilt!) I really learned a lot about white and the history of art!

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    1. Thank you so much Pamela! I love learning new things, especially about art. It's always great to see a different perspective of something that we take for granted.

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  9. Very nice collage and great use of the variety of techniques. Thanks for sharing :) MelvaLovesScraps at nolanqualitycustoms dot com

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  10. wow! what a great post!
    thanks so much for sharing and for linking up!

    brooke@sillymamaquilts.com

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    1. Thanks Brooke, and as always, thanks for hosting your linky parties!

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  11. Wow, wonderful post and information!

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  12. I really enjoyed reading about all the images in your quilt and explaining all the meanings. Who knew that white could be so powerful! A great quilt!

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    1. Thanks Norma. I was really fascinated by all of these aspects of the history of white. It was really great to make this quilt and learn more.

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  13. So much information in your post!! And how you managed to pack so many artists, pieces, inspiration and technique in that tiny piece is absolutely fascinating!!! Your finished pieces are always so very well crafted and thought out, that it is an honor to have you joining this blog hop!! Thanks again for sharing!!

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    1. Thank you so much Alida. It's my favourite event of the year. I hope to participate as long as you keep putting it on. I always think that I'll keep it simple, and then I start and can't stop :-) It's also great to be creating for this blog hop because then I have something to exhibit in the Out of the Box Fibre Art events. So thank you!

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  14. Fantastic job! The details! If I saw this at a show I would stop and spend a few minutes looking at all the different areas. This quilt tells a story. 👏👏👏👏👏

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    1. Thanks Carol. I was really fascinated by the story behind the colour white. I never would have guessed that one colour could have influenced the history of art so much.

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  15. C'est magnifique ! J'adore tous ces détails, et les astuces de création ;) Très beau projet, bravo, quelle inspiration !

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    1. Merci Frédérique. J'ai eu beaucoup de plaisir a le crééer.

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  16. This is a terrific art piece AND your post is jammed packed with stacks of information. You are making me wish I had joined this blog hop again after all, but I think with my lack of time I am enjoying it more from the reader side of the fence this round.

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  17. This is so cool! I love all the knowledge I learn from reading your posts too!

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  18. Thsi is very interesting. I had no idea how the use and imagery of white has changed. I love that you created your own art piece to represent it.

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  19. You presented each theme so well. Lovely details and artwork. Thank you for sharing the history and info about the documentary.

    -Soma

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I would love to hear from you - and since I have now fixed my settings, you should be able to leave a comment.