The call for entries for a curated exhibition of small original 50cm x 50cm art quilts with the theme “Vision:2020” began appearing mid year 2019 in the various art quilt organisation newsletters, and direct announcements from the curator herself. I rarely make a quilt with a theme for a particular exhibition, and as the daughter of an optometrist, ‘eyes’ was the only response I could think of, so didn’t give it much mental space while focusing (pun intended) on my trip to Brasil and the new quilt top I threw myself into in October.
Last November parts of Australia began experiencing unusually early summer bushfires across regions totally tinder dry after years of drought. Cool temperate temperate rain forests which burn slowly if at all were suddenly engulfed by walls of flame roaring rapidly across landscape driven by strong hot dry winds. As people and politicians discussed causes and began to allocate blame, noisy comment ratcheted up from all corners of the community – local, regional, national and international experts (and non-experts including most politicians) on forest management, national parks, land clearing, Aboriginal land management practices, agricultural land use, settlement patterns, bureaucratic ignorance, governmental bungling, water resource allocation and management, fire fighting, bushfire mitigation, and the big umbrella issue, climate change.
Wherever we are, Australians are seeing and experiencing these same events from different, often conflicting and sometimes multiple points of view. It’s a wonder that loss of life is still under 50 souls, though one life lost is too many. Already living in constricted and reducing habitats, wildlife has suffered enormously and pulled heartstrings of people overseas; but let’s not forget the farmed sheep, cattle, fish and poultry that also perished. Recorded acts of heroism and bravery vie for media attention with swirling facts and fictions laced with accusations of media and political bias, mispresentation, lying, insensitivity, tone deafness, virtue signalling, panic, hysteria, acts of bravery, arson, cowardice, support, neglect, emotions, indifference and more. Though from this distance I don’t have smoke in my eyes, I see this national crisis with certain viewpoints. There are so many reasons why Australia is suffering these fires this summer, and regardless of personal views on those causes, as a nation we need conversations on policy change based on some glaring lessons learned from this experience. We are all on watch now, for the future.
By mid december I found this situation was becoming one I needed to think about addressing in my art, and this Vision:2020 call suddenly seemed a reasonable one, though with a January 10th closing date, and only vague ideas, I knew I’d be cutting it fine! On December 30th I posted ‘Eyes’ about initial thoughts and some sample making done in the quiet post Christmas period, one which I’ve always appreciated for getting something done fast with little interruption, if I happen to be at home, of course. All my life I’ve been a bit of a last minute wonder – procrastination is my middle name. My go-to-approach is a repeat block/unit design, but with rapidly increasing media coverage on our fires, it occurred to me I could locate a particular quilt with a fire theme and repurpose that by trimming down to 50cm x 50cm to be the background to what I wanted to do with an eye motif. Easy.
I couldn’t find the wretched thing though, so, with the clock ticking, rather than waste valuable time looking, I decided that in the remaining 6-7 days I could ‘easily’ do an improvisational piecing background and refine the eye thing in time to complete, photograph and submit an entry for Vision: 2020. I managed it with a whole day to spare. Once entries were closed, the curator, Brenda Gael Smith, gave some facts about entries received, geographical locations of artists etc. Apparently the last entry was filed at 11.54 pm on January 10th, ie. 6 minutes before close – love it!
The call for entry is juried, so I won’t show the whole work here yet, but will blog more later on that, regardless of the outcome.