Mind Management and Lessons Learned.
Katriina Flensburg, Sweden
An invitational exhibition in continental Europe about a year ago caused me to lose an entire collection of work, a flagship-sample and a major part of my larger pieces from the last few years. When the exhibition, a co-operation with an appreciated colleague, was taken down, my contribution of ten larger pieces was packed and handed over to a staff-member pointed out as responsible for the return-freight. It was the last time I saw my work. My inquiries about the delay of the return were met with prevarications until I was finally informed: ”We lost your work, so sorry!” The package with my collection had been left unguarded at the event location and it had disappeared.
This project with its reflective and pictorial context is a thought-to-be final step in a process that covers the long mental deep-dive that followed my loss and the timely prolonged, draining and exhausting efforts required in defending my rights as an artist and the ”value” of my art. My reaction of sorrow, overwhelming grief, anger and sense of being violated, disregarded, physically hurt and creatively disabled were caused not only by the loss but by the lack of decent response and required action taken by the event company responsible for the loss.
Lost # 1: “Apocalypso” , 170 x 148 cm, Katriina Flensburg An early work among the lost ones, a comission to a book-project. My aim was to create a piece representative for modern and minimalistic Scandinavian design.
Materials: Commercial cottons of Marimekko and Ikea, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: piecing, machine quilting.
The experience of losing my work has made me, not only to evaluate and value the impact and importance of collegial support but also to reflect my relationship to the result of my efforts. During the process it grew obvious to me that the hundreds of working hours I had spent on transferring my thoughts, ideas and emotions to my work had created a kind of mental and tactile closeness, a fondness that made itself painfully felt more deeply than I was prepared for. There seemed to be no significant difference between my feelings of loss and those of anybody who loses a person close to her heart. My feelings of deep grief seemed to be applicable also to another aspect of human relations, one that indicates that a separation approved or been prepared for is, if not easier, more bearable than a sudden and not foreseen loss.
Lost #10 detail
Lost #5 detail
Lost #2 detail
Art in a grey-zone
My expression, that of the Art Quilt, is one of many artistic expressions within the field of textiles which are in general bundled off to a kind of grey-zone of art. It is seldom honored with space or attention on the established art scenes in Europe and even less within our Nordic and Scandinavian countries. Due to its limited practice and, more importantly, its lack of roots in our established academic textile tradition it is practically unknown and mostly ignored here.
An art quilt does not in general fulfill or wish to agree with the common standards of today´s art in the means of fitting in. Despite its long and strong tradition of being conceptual, provocative and questioning, it is seldom awkward, ugly, disgusting or purely confusing. It does not often deny or wish to abandon the rules and power of beauty and simple aesthetics. Despite its materials, it has some even more oppressive qualities for not having been seen as art by the traditionally male steered art establishment. It has its origin and roots in female needlework throughout the ages, it is mainly performed by women, mastered by women, loved and worshipped by women and taught and studied by women. Like all the other artistic expressions it has its better and worse outcomes and less and more celebrated and skilled performers. And yet, however distinguished, skill demanding and artisticly refined its outcome, it is practically unrecognized by the gatekeepers of our art establishments. – A fact that all too often contributes to keeping down the monetary value of an art quilt in favor of a praxis applied for prizing utilitarian textiles, this is the one based on ”labor of craft” rather than an artistic value.
Lost #3: Swedish Red – Red Earth, 155 x 150 cm, Katriina Flensburg
My latest addition to the series of experiment with monochromatic colors, fabric painting and mono-printing. The work was inspired by the beautifully outdated paint of the old barn seen from my studio window.
Materials: Cotton, textile acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Piecing, free-hand machine quilting
Lost # 4: “Aurora Borealis”, 140 x118 cm, Katriina Flensburg
From the series of experiment with monochromatic colors, fabric painting and mono-printing. Inspired by the beauty and mystery of the Northern winter skies.
Materials: Cotton, textile acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Mono-printing, painting, piecing, free-hand machine quilting
Lost # 5: ”Raku”, 130 x130 cm, Katriina Flensburg
I am great admirer of pottery and drawn to the Japanese Raku-work where the painted pieces are burn in high temperature generating various effects. My aim was to emulate the earthy tones of Raku with its ”oxidating” color-elements.
Material: Cotton, angelina-fiber, textile acrylic Methods: Piecing, mono-printing, painting, free-hand machine quilting.
The “value” of the loss
Without any further discussion about appropriate pricing it should be obvious to anybody with insight into the time-consuming approaches of textile art that a “value” of an unexpected disappearance of a whole collection of work is more than any possible economic gain generated by sales. Many of today´s artists earn their income with a combination of teaching, lecturing and studio showings. Having access to a collection of recent work is crucial in the means of gaining future engagements and commissions. An unplanned disposal of an entire collection forces you to recall your engagements and reschedule your future plans. It leaves you “naked” and without any up-to date artistic capital to relay on. Time and other resources required for recreating any corresponding collection of the same magnitude adds to the value of a loss.
Lost # 6: ”R.I.P.” 93 x 43 cm (each) by Katriina Flensburg
These pieces were made as a memorial tribute to my mother and a near friend who passed away timely close to each other
Materials: Cottons, cotton yarn, fabric acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Batik dyeing, acrylic painting, embroidery, machine quilting, kantha-stitching
Lost # 7: ”Misty”( I), 75×75 cm, Katriina Flensburg
Part one in a three-part series inspired of the colours and the freshness of the early spring season
Materials: Cottons, batik dyes, fabric acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Batik dyeing, acrylic painting, machine quilting
To be ”pretty” and shut up?
The experience has been an important reminder about the vulnerability and seldom discussed rights of any female artist (I lack insight and experience of the “male” art community) accepting an invitation to exhibit in established circumstances with no professional policies or commonly agreed rules and regulations. The absence of acknowledgement among established art and consequently the lack of access to exhibition facilities have prepared ground for large trade-events to step forth as major exhibitors of the art and artists within the field of textile art.
True devotion and an honest will to promote the field is in general one of the origins of their engagement. I have enjoyed a number of invitations to exhibit my work at these events during the years and my experience is mostly positive. However, there are better and worse event-companies. When it comes to the latter, their exclusive focus on private winning at the expense of the invited artists (who are seldom offered any relevant coverage for their expenses or any benefits) can be questioned. Such an attitude and policy underrates any invited well-renowned and skilled female artist to a position of an inexpensive decoy and tool in the means of chasing private profit.
As an artist coming from one country to exhibit in another, you lay your work in hands of the inviting event-organizer. Being a member of an established artists´ union and enjoying a certain legal protection in your own country does not give you any guarantees when it comes to a event organization in another country. A less responsible event-management has a free hand to neglect any economic responsibilities when it comes to the artists and their contributions.
Despite the magnitude of my loss and the legal rights on my side (including a written agreement and a witness-statement) the management of the event company in question remained unwilling to take any responsibility for their mistake. On the contrary, they stopped answering e-mails and refrained from any required contacts, forcing me to turn to costly legal help for advancing anywhere in the matter. However, the latter did not bring any solution. The tactics of the event company were even in the long run to rely on the fact that a legal process in a foreign country would be too costly and complicated for me to carry through. They were naturally right. Being already drained by the loss followed by the uncertainity of the outcome during ten months of time, a court-process in a foreign country was not even an alternative to consider. The company walked out of the situation without any consequences.
Lost # 8 ”Burning” 104 x 96 cm by Katriina Flensburg
A piece created for a juried exhibition, inspired by the impact of a devastating fire.
Materials: Cotton, batik dyes, textile acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Batik dyeing, acrylic painting, machine quilting, kantha-stiching
Lost # 9: “Total Eclipse”, 133 x 157 cm, Katriina Flensburg
A piece inspired by a BBC documentary, an impressing close-up presentation of a total sun-eclipse of 2015 by the famous physicist Brian Cox
Materials: Hand-printed, hand-dyed and industrial cottons, polyester, tulle, fabric acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Batik dyeing, mono-printing, piecing, appliqué, machine quilting
There is a definite need of some individual and collegial concern when it comes to like situations. Except demanding every single company to guarantee relevant insurances of the exhibited art during their events, some basic requirements for dealing with matters involving any kind of damage or loss should be given. An event management in response should be required to:
- initiate a continuous dialogue between the parties until any result or agreement is reached
- keep the damaged party updated on the measures taken
- provide the damaged party with the legal documents required
- be responsible for answering requests addressed in the matter
- come with an offer of a reasonable compensation as soon as possible for reducing the damage caused
In my case the event-organizer in question did not meet these requirements. Despite repeated inquires it is still unknown whether the loss was ever reported to a police authority of the country in question or if any third-part investigations were ever carried trough.
Past-time work in process
My engagement as an artist goes on and time will show when or if I will be able to present any corresponding collection of new work. If something good is to come out of my experience it is my hope that the female artists’ community will in the future be independent and brave enough to acknowledge and refuse the conditions discussed here, and to raise their voices for agreements that oblige every event company within the field to pay respect to the rights of the artists they are exposing. Such concern should include all the aspects of any artistic contributions in the circumstances discussed.
In today´s environment of constantly increasing international exchange, cooperation and trading, more attention should be paid and more awareness raised about the need of agreements, some level of control and legal consideration including the questions of responsibility when it comes to the private initiatives to profit on the international community of female artists.
Lost # 10: ”Bittersweet” ( 95 x 87 cm) Katriina Flensburg
The great classic novels of the Russian writers were a part of my early adolescence. This piece as inspired by the atmosphere of a favorite ”Cherry Orchard” (Cherry Garden) by Chekhov.
Materials: Cottons, cotton canvas, velvets, organza, batik dyes, fabric acrylic, cotton/polyester batting. Methods: Piecing, batik-dyeing, acrylic painting, top-stitching
Documentation in this matter can be made available in a case of interest in serious follow-up of the described circumstances. Any possible information about the lost pieces is appreciated. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org