|North Rim, Michael James, 2022|
Wow! It's been a while since I did a "Facts You didn't know" post. I love doing these since it gives me a good reason to take a minute and research some of my favorite artists. This week I choose Michael James. Now most of us know him, but how well??
Like did you know...
- In 1973, James was months from receiving his Masters of Fine Arts in painting when he stopped cold to take up work in work in fabric. Can you imagine how THAT went over with his friends
and family? He felt that he had "nothing to say in painting" but was inspired from seeing an exhibition of Amish quilts. It put him to mind that quilts could be more than blankets for your bed. Not to mention he was brought up around the dying textile industry of Massachutes.
- James was married 43 years before his wife died of complications of Alzheimer's. From this painful experience, he created a body of work, “Ambiguity & Enigma,"
- James was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame (okay raise your hand if didn't even know there was a Quilter's Hall of Fame (grin)) and has a quilt in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian (here is my plug to put the Renwick on your Bucket list if you haven't ever been there). His work also resides in the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, the Racine Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the Mint Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Shelburne Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art to name a few.
So What Have You've Been Up to Creatively?
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I found all these facts pretty interesting! Thanks for sharing this info about Michael James.
He lectured at the SAQA Conference and I was so impressed with him. He was so down-to-earth and incredibly talented. I hate to think he is retiring! He is a true legend. I love that he is adamant about calling his work the q word.
I have been lucky to live and have my local guild meetings at the IQM. I have seen many of his works and they are so impressive in person. Well worth a trip to Nebraska to see the museum. :)
I liked Michael James' early work a lot. I had no idea his style had evolved so dramatically and, I have to say, I find his later work much more intriguing. His early work shows his mastery of, not only, piecing but of light and rhythm and balance and color etc., etc., etc...It has a vibration to it that makes me want to go "Ohm" and meditate.
But his later work invites the viewer to explore, to ponder, to imagine, to question. I like it much more.
But have you heard the story of why Michael stopped hand quilting his work and started to machine quilt them? Apparently he was hanging his own work for an exhibit. Some patrons wondered into the gallery while he was working. They had no idea he had made the work. Simply thought he worked at the gallery. One patron turned to the other and asked "Do you think this hand quilted or machine quilted?" Her companion replied, "Has to be machine quilted. The stitches are too small and precise." He had hand quilted the work they were looking at. It hit him, if viewers can't tell the difference, then why spend the time hand quilting.
An early book on quilting by him was the first quilting book I bought, before I was even really quilting. An interview in QNM really helped me stop worrying so much about what others might think of my work, that idea of chasing the market. Nope, he said. Better to make work you like and are proud of rather than trying to figure out what others might like and not like your work yourself or enjoy making it. He finished with "Just do the work" and the rest should work itself out. That has been my mantra ever since, although I often have to be reminded.
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