Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's midnight in the garden

Midnight in the Garden of Academe (2004)
Judy McDermott
102 x 76 cm
Silk. Cotton Batting. Machine quilted with cotton thread.
Knots are hand-dyed silk.

Completed in 2004, Midnight in the Garden of Academe was exhibited first in the US and then in Germany after Judy's death in 2005. I didn't have the opportunity to discuss this quilt with Judy but her husband told me that just as A Real Pretend Wagga for Paul Klee (1998)--selected for 'Quilt National' in 1999--was all about 'colour', Midnight in the Garden of Academe was all about 'texture'.


The titles of Judy's works are important, even if it is  now up to us to decode them the best way we can. She loved language--puns, double meanings, to cross-reference her quilts to poetry, to literature. Some, like Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie (2002) were named after a song title which she told me she had heard on the radio after the song itself had been played...Judy's daughter explained that Love Will Nail You to the Cross (1995-1997) was also named after a song: 'Nail You to the Cross' by John Ewbank. I have a recording of Jeannie Lewis  made in 1995 ('Tango Australis', Sole Music). The words and music are powerful, the message hard-hitting, it's message of inevitability: 
"Love's going to nail you to the cross/Love's going to nail you to the cross/It'll go right through you/It'll flatter and fool you/It'll do you good and nail you to the cross."
And the quilt itself takes that message even further: it is the private made public, looking being made visible, the quilt can both reveal and conceal, it is reversible (the narratives to be understood from both sides), it enfolds. To work with Judy's quilts is to continually uncover alternative meaning, uncover new stories.

The art quilt as a medium of expression draws on the tradition of the utilitarian quilt and, as such, is associated with home and family. Placing the quilt within the gallery allows these conventional narratives to be re-assessed and the opportunity for other, even 'hidden' meanings to emerge.

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