Women, Art, and Critics

I was watching a show about the quilts of Gee's Bend. I've admired them in books and on U.S. stamps, but I knew nothing of their history and how they came to the public's attention. The art dealers who worked to get them into museums noted that many critics dismissed them as "women's crafts." In other word, less than art. Even mainstream quilters, who are largely kept out of art museums unlike the work of the Gee's Bend quilters, slammed the bright, boldly patterned quilts because they don't have careful stitching or don't follow traditional patterns.

I've known traditional quilters. My mother was one. Fabric and the stitches that quilted the top to the back, through the batting, were carefully planned. Piecing is an art form. Precise points, minuscule stitches, careful planning go into a classic quilt. The ladies of Gee's Bend start with an idea, a few strips cut from some old clothes, and an imagination unfettered by tradition.  They sew by the seat of their pants.

What does this have to do with writing? 1) Romances have a formula, of sorts. Now don't start screeching at me. The truth is, in a romance, you have to have the hero/heroine meet right fast, or the romance readers slam the book against the wall.  There're all sorts of romances, all kinds of level of hotness, and a stunning variety of stories and themes. But you have to get your boy and girl in the same room pretty quickly. They don't have to do "it," but they've got to have face time of some sort so the romance can get underway.

Traditional quilts are stunning in their breadth and width.  Within the patterns that have been around for centuries, you can play around, but you'd better keep your feet on the ground and mind the pattern's rules. Basically, this is your classic romance. Good stuff. No complaints. Women have made careers and fortunes off this. Think Nora Roberts. These amazing women artists and writers have my greatest admiration.

And then you have the books that can't be stuffed into the traditional rules.  Pantsers understand this.   People who love "different" romances know what I'm speaking of. The stitches may be unruly, the colors crazy and clashing. True love may not start in the first chapter.

Both types of books are great. There are readers aplenty for both. Yet both types get slammed regularly for being "women's books." Romance.  You can hear the disdain without listening.

Nothing makes me angrier. Well, animal and child abuse do, but this form of criticism hits my hot button big time. Quilts, books, anything created primarily by women is somehow less. Women don't need to attack other women who work in the arts. Let's support each other. We have male critics by the bushels.

I love the Gee's Bend quilts, traditional quilts, classic romances, and the off-the-wall kind, too. If it's a good read or a piece of fabric art that speaks to me, I don 't care how you got there, your age, your gender, whatever else you are or aren't.

The end result is all that matters.