“I’m Not Crazy” Juror and Curator Statements
I was delighted at the opportunity to serve as juror for “I’m Not Crazy”. I knew the theme as outlined in the prospectus provided by curator Kathy Nida would provide an opportunity for artists to address a facet of modern life that is sometimes underserved in the art quilt community. I took my cues on selecting the work from this part of the prospectus:
“We’re looking for work that covers these experiences: from the eyes of the caregiver, the friend, the family member, and, of course, those who have experienced any of these disorders themselves. Your work can reflect the disorder or the chaos it holds on our lives, it can be humorous, it can be sad, it can be crazy or incredibly calm.“
The response to this call produced a wonderful variety of submissions providing an overview of the breadth and depth of the exciting work currently being produced by contemporary art quilters and fiber artists. I worked to bring this diversity into the exhibit, while keeping closely to the intent of the theme.
My methodology for selecting the work for “I’m Not Crazy” was both a subtractive and additive process. I began by removing from consideration those works where I had difficulty understanding how they fit the theme, works that had significant design or construction issues, and those where the photography was seriously deficient, making it difficult to evaluate the work. This was a small percentage of the quilts.
Next I selected those quilts that stood out from the pack, the cream of the crop both visually and thematically. With careful consideration I added to this group until I met that maximum number that would fit in the space allotted. Had there been more space available, I could have easily qualified more quilts, as the overall quality of work submitted was very high.
I used three criteria for selection, in ascending importance. First of all, the works had to meet a minimum standard for good craftsmanship. Regardless of the techniques used, I wanted to see that the artist had pursued and achieved a high level of competency. Next, I examined the design sensibilities of the piece. My benchmark was work that demonstrated the artist’s firm and proficient grasp of the elements and principles of good design even if it strayed from them for the purpose of artistic expression.
Finally, I was looking for that elusive something that makes a piece unique—a clever concept well executed, a new twist on a traditional expression, a technique employed not as a novelty but as a vehicle for the manifestation of an idea. I was especially looking for work that had an emotive quality which was able to draw the viewer into the scenario envisioned by the artist. In each work selected for this exhibit, the distinctive voice of the artist came through and made their quilt memorable.
I am very excited about the works I’ve chosen. I know that as they tour the country, they will provide the opportunity for stimulating dialogue about mental health issues and our personal and civic responses to them, while simultaneously delighting viewers with the beauty of the quilts and the talents of the artists.
I came up with the theme of I’m Not Crazy after listening to a variety of friends talk about their own issues with mental disorders and those of family members and how to help them. From personal experience and working with my own students and their families, I have noticed in our culture that mental illness carries with it a stigma; many people are scared to talk about their own illnesses or those of family members because of this negative attitude.
Yet so many of us deal with these disorders on a daily basis, whether battling them within or helping those we love find a way to live with the effects of these illnesses. This exhibit shows the effects of mental illness on families and individuals, it shows the minor trips down depression’s alley and the longer trips that might end in suicide. There are caregivers, parents, children, and sufferers of mental illness making art in response to these disorders.
Working with Sue Reno as the juror, with her emphasis on quality of technique within such an emotional topic, and learning the ins and outs of SAQA curating was a great learning experience. Everyone was very helpful in our goal to put together a strong exhibit, including some foreign friends of mine who helped translate one of the statements. Bringing this theme to the eyes of the many people who come to the Mancuso quilt shows was my goal, and I appreciate everyone’s help in getting it there. I hope it helps open conversations about the topic of mental disorders and their effect on our lives.