What I make will disappear

Creative Goddess by Nanette S. Zeller. Created spring 2010/disassembled 2014

I wonder why people create. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. There are some of us who create for the pure joy of making something, there are others who make to give away, there are some who create things to make a statement, and even people who create hoping to be seen.

Recently I’ve been making art quilts which are meant to be statements pieces. In making my art I’ve also realized I do it to be seen. It may sound a little narcissistic, but why else would you put in a purposal for a solo show or enter an art exhibit? You obviously have something you want people to see otherwise you’d keep it from hanging in public view.

Some of this for me is also about leaving a legacy. When I die only 2 things will remain: one is people’s memories of me as the person and the other is any object I’ve created. Memories fade fast, but material objects created by a person can last a very, very long time.

Have you ever watched the Antiques Roadshow? On the show, people bring in their “finds” and are educated about the object. I am always so fascinated when the expert starts sharing the history of the people who created the piece. I’ve seen it with paintings, furniture, jewelry, and all sorts of objects. They tell stories about the object and stories about the creator. Sometimes the expert can recite facts from over 100 years ago. How exciting that the artisan is still being remembered for what they did so very long ago. There’s a legacy.

Do I really expect my work to last centuries? No, absolutely not. I use textiles. There are things I can’t control about longevity. I’ve seen quilts from the last century made from beautiful silks or cute little calico prints which have disintegrated over time. They didn’t know back then that some of the dyes which colored the fabrics would eat away at the fibers or would fade so badly that a bright red fabric would turn tan.

We’re much more cautious now and the textile industry tests their products. Do I really know for sure that the materials will survive 100 years or more? No. Sunlight can be suicide to any fabric (I keep my textile pieces stored in a dark closet). I can only hope that the fusible products, synthetic adhesives, fixatives and starches, or even the dyes in the fabrics don’t contribute to decomposition. But really, I don’t stress about these things.

As much as I would love to think that 100 years from now one of my art quilts will be considered a prize possession, I know that’s unlikely. I do take caution in what I use. I don’t knowingly do things that will damage my art, but I don’t obsess about the archival quality of a product I’m using. Like a memory, I know in time what I make will disappear.



    • Nanette says:

      Thanks Jaye, but unfortunately this is one of those pieces that no longer exists. I haven’t work in 3-D in many years.

  1. Susan Lenz says:

    You know that this blog post speaks to my heart and soul. I’d like to share my statement from an earlier show. I think you will relate too … and find hope that maybe, just maybe, something of ours will actually last!

    I am old … middle aged … past the days of turning heads … past days of fertility … past the days when my art might raise eyebrows in the circles of those looking for tomorrow’s new, great, up-and-coming artist, the one who might shake up the world with cutting-edge work. I just work.

    I ply an age-old needle pulling timeworn thread through layers of vintage fabric. I work like so many women all over the world from every century since the dawn of time. There’s nothing new about a straight stitch. Repetitive … pierce and pull … hour after hour … day after day … year after year. My sewing machine hums with near constant activity. My fingers are nimble and quick. Productivity is in my blood. Finished pieces stack up on out-of-the-way shelves, begging to be noticed, ready for the vague chance to hang on an exhibition wall. I don’t hold my breath. I just work.

    These truths are always with me: I am a female lacking an academic arts education in a male dominated world bent on high-brow approaches to art-making underscored with critical words written by trained professionals. I am a postmenopausal woman with years of experience and mountains of visual expressions. I work and will continue to work because I have something to say in spite of the many obstacles. I work with the faint hope that “something”, perhaps just one little work of art, might be kept through coming generations, cherished … admired … remembered … regarded as “quality” … something to mark my existence on this planet. I work because …


    • Nanette says:

      Thanks Susan. Brings tears to my eyes because you understand deeply this nagging feeling I’m having. I AM NOT INVISIBLE says it all. Love you for who you are and the passion you have for people and art!

  2. Carole Rossi says:

    Hi Nanette, your comments are excellent. I think I create for almost all the reasons you have listed, that is, for the pure joy of creating (it is a life affirming activity!), so that people will see it (Otherwise, as you state, why would we enter exhibits and shows), and to make a statement (sometimes)! Thank you for posting your thoughtful comments

    • Nanette says:

      Thanks Carole! It definitely is life affirming. I looked at your website. Your improvisational piecing is fabulous!! Thanks for commenting.

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