I Feel A Chill: The Tip of the Iceberg


Artwork by Kathy Nida

Could we have one more chat about Kathy Nida’s two artworks being pulled from a Studio Art Quilt Associates’ exhibit showing at an American Quilter’s Society Quilt Week before I return to our regularly scheduled programming?  Thanks!  (Please read more about the artwork and the kerfuffle on Kathy’s blog.).

You may be thinking that I and other artists and those who love art quilts are over-reacting.  What’s the big deal?  It’s just two art quilts that won’t be shown at what are considered to be quite traditional quilt venues.

But I’m very worried that the removal of Kathy’s artwork is just the tip of an iceberg that will quietly and surely threaten the gains art quilts have made to be accepted in the art world and the freedom we have as artists to talk about, in our art quilts, what’s important to us.

I’m going to say “Kathy’s art quilts” in the following scenarios, but substitute in your mind your or anyone else’s artwork that might contain something. anything that might offend someone, somewhere.

What about the next time Kathy’s art quilts comes up for jurying? Jurying is blind, but Kathy’s artwork is very distinctive (that’s one of the things I most love about it!)  The juror (admittedly a poor specimen) hesitates for just a moment and thinks,”Oh, no, I’ve spent so much time thinking about and jurying this exhibit. If there’s controversy over this artwork, that’s all anyone is going to remember about it.”

A board is considering booking an exhibit in which Kathy’s art quilts are included. They hesitate,   “Could someone be offended?  Will there be controversy? Will that controversy drive away (paying) visitors?”

An artist thinks to herself, ” Will this artwork be difficult to exhibit because of . . .” I’m pretty sure the rest of the art world has accepted the human figure, male or female, clothed or not, as acceptable for general viewing for quite some time now. Ditto on myriad other non-issues in the art world. We shouldn’t be fighting these battles again unless we’re not really talking about art.

A more traditional quilt venue is considering booking a Studio Art Quilt Associates’ exhibit,  “Let’s think a minute about that, remember what happened with that People and Portraits exhibit?”

Do you feel a chill?


I do. I have one foot in the lifeboat already and I’m thinking there is not going to be room for my beloved Bernina aboard our little rubber boat.

It’s art if it challenges and invites us to look at the world in new ways.  We don’t have to accept or embrace the artist’s vision, but we should be able to appreciate that the artist is thinking about issues (race, gender, the environment, politics, etc., etc.) which really, truly matter or sharing a unique perspective on the world in which we all live.

Individual artist’s visions and how she/he expresses those visions might be controversial.  That’s OK.  In fact, it’s great.  Art is, and has been for centuries, one of the best vehicles to engender conversation.  Let’s keep art quilts in the conversation.

UPDATE: You could still protest per below, but I’m pretty sure AQS is not budging from their position. Here is something positive you can do – become more aware of artists’ rights.  Leonie Hartley- Hoover shared these two very useful sites:


Know Your Rights: A Tool for Artists

What YOU Can Do:  Use the addresses for the American Quilter’s Society provided in this well-reasoned and effective letter of protest written by Mary Beth Frezon.  And don’t forget the power of social media by posting on FB: “American Quilter’s Society – Please reinstate Kathy Nida’s artworks to the Studio Art Quilt Associates’ exhibit “People and Portraits” currently showing at the AQS Quilt Weeks. #aqs





About The Author


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Author his web sitehttp://www.VirginiaSpiegel.com


08 2016

10 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. Audrey Gorman #

    Well put! Insightful comments, all! I have sent email to protest the removal of first one and then both quilts. I’ll try to attach it here. Use whatever parts of it you care to, if they help say what you want to say. And see Mary Beth Frezon’s letter, referenced in Virginia’s post. My email:

    Date: 19 Aug 2016
    To: bonnie.browning@americanquilter.com, terry.guill@americanquilter.com
    CC: ExecDirector@saqa.com
    BC: Mary Beth Frezon

    From: Audrey Gorman <agorman@wideopenw

    Subject: Kathy Nida Quilt, “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket,” at Quiltweek, Grand Rapids

    Dear people at American Quilter,

    I understand that the Kathy Nida quilt in the subject line was removed from the “People and Portraits” group at QuiltWeek Grand Rapids. I understand that your group did so because of the objection of one person who was offended by depiction of a penis in the quilt. The outraged comments I’ve seen online point out, rightly, that there is no penis there. That compounds the wrong done to Kathy, the quilt world, and the arts.

    "Censorship occurs when expressive materials, like books, magazines, films and videos, or works of art, are removed or kept from public access. Individuals and pressure groups identify materials to which they object. Sometimes they succeed in pressuring schools not to use them, libraries not to shelve them, book and video stores not to carry them, publishers not to publish them, or art galleries not to display them. “ 
    Quote downloaded 19 Aug 2016 from the website of the American Library Association (ALA)  at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorshipfirstamendmentissues/ifcensorshipqanda 

    Your removal of “I Was Not Wearing A Life Jacket” clearly constitutes censorship. According to your web site, in forming the American Quilter's Society Meredith Schroeder's goal was to develop a group that "gave national recognition to the quilters and their work" and "to set the standard in the industry.” Ill-considered removal of a work from an existing group of quilts that had traveled since 2013 does not live up to either part of this goal. Removal equals a repudiation of a quilter and her work. Removal undermines freedom of expression. Removal is caving in to pressure from those who would have us see only what they deem appropriate. If your standards include knee-jerk censorship as well as violation of the basics of common courtesy by not contacting the artist, other quilters may continue to question your actions and even your relevance. 

    Please write a formal apology to Kathy Nida and to SAQA. State your realization that removal of the quilt was a wrongful act of censorship. Include the ALA  definition above. Send actual snail mail letters to Ms. Nida and SAQA. In addition, publish your apology widely, on the Internet, in blogs, web sites, other electronic formats you use, and in print, including in your magazine. Also, restore Ms. Nida’s quilts to “People and Portraits."

    I’m not a quilter, though family and friends are; I’m a retired librarian. I have seen challenges to books and films and art. Quilting is art. I believe that you can still right this wrong. I’ll look forward to your response.

    Audrey J. Gorman
    (630) 661-9062

  2. Bev Longford #

    Thank you, both blog entries are bang on, if you don’t like it walk on. Perhaps some more of you need to ask to have your quilts removed from a show that censors in this fashion. Hard to do I am sure but no quilts no show, I fear that any quilter who does distinctive work that a few might object too is in danger of having their work dismissed.

  3. Marie Wainwright #

    SO WHAT! Art is supposed to challenge your own ideas and beliefs. She must be very, very good to garner so much press. Grow up people. What are you afraid of? Seeing some thing in a new way? It is 2016, not 1816.

  4. 4

    Bonnie, Of course. I also have a link on my own FB page if you want to do it as a share. Thank you!

  5. 5

    Your article is important and very well written. May I post a link to it on my FB page? It’s Bonnie Langenfeld’s Fabric Art.
    Thank you,

  6. kat #

    well said.

  7. Loretta Armstrong #

    Censorship is never good no matter who, what or why! Art should be free for everyone to think, do or express however she or he chooses! I think about Picasso, Bosch and their many odd featured figures and the exposure of parts and pieces of the human body. Through the many years of the ART, there have always been expressions of parts, pieces which were approved of and not approved of that made it to the exhibits and then to the National Gallery and to our houses of worship! No art censorship, please! Thank you very much for this discussion and allowing me and many others to express thoughts!
    Loretta Armstrong — I am SAQA!

  8. 8

    Well said!
    It feels as if we in the textile arts community have taken one step forward and two steps back. I am aghast that the comment of ONE person – who obviously needed to see an optometrist – has caused this brouhaha. it seems that our world has flip-flopped. The minority (in this case one person) is valued more than the majority.

  9. 9

    Janice, Exactly! You asked on FB if you can comment on the AQS FB page. Yes! There are two different places to leave comments or reviews on the right-hand side of their page. And thank you for also writing to AQS in defense of Kathy’s artwork.

  10. Janice Novachoff #

    Well said. I did send an email to AQS but since I gave up my membership some years ago because felt SAQA and SDA better met my needs. Had attended a show now and again but no more. Hope SAQA can find more accommodating venues in the future. Kathy’s art is very recognizable and it would be a crime if her work is censored in the future for any of the scenarios you mentioned.