Urbana artist Paley putting quilt art on display
FAIRMOUNT — One of the more unusual art events of the summer promises to be "Art Quilts & Animation: New Works and Old by Nina Paley" at the Sleepy Creek Vineyards.
There, the local artist who happens to be internationally known will show her art quilts for the first time, as well as her groundbreaking animated musical film, "Sita Sings the Blues," which after its 2009 release won a slew of awards at film festivals around the world.
"Sita Sings the Blues," with torch songs by Annette Hanshaw (1901-85), will be screened at 8 p.m. Saturday at Sleepy Creek, during the opening reception, which starts at 6. The event is free.
Paley, who lives in Urbana, is showing 10 handmade quilts at the winery's barn-like building, which has a gallery loft and a rustic and modernist vibe.
Most of Paley's quilts incorporate images from "Sita" as well as from her "Seder-Masochism," her in-progress animated feature.
Quilts not related to her animated work are "Nude," a life-size depiction on white cotton of a woman, and "Bargain (Ten Thousand Dollars)", a giant depiction of a $10,000 bill, made of cotton fabric, wool batting and polyester thread.
"People can come to see a genuine $10,000 bill," Paley joked. "I quilted a $10,000 bill; it's a darn good piece of art. It took a lot of work. It actually looks really good. It's my first piece with wool batting, too."
A free-culture advocate, Paley wrote at her website (http://www.ninapaley.com) on her thinking behind that 71-by-31.5-inch quilt, quoting Charlie Finch in "A New Market Theory of Art":
"Why are works by Marlene Dumas worth millions and those by the stylistically similar Chuck Connelly worth next to nothing? Because surplus capital in the hands of a small group of moneyed types decrees it so, by fiat. Disparities between surplus capital and 'normal' market behavior ... create two distinct 'markets.' The high-end market just described is the seeking of surplus capital for true value, which lands on a work of art, because that work of art is perceived as unique, often in a highly arbitrary manner that disregards questions of esthetics and connoisseurship. The news is not that a Picasso is worth $100 million, but that $100 million is worth the Picasso!"
After reading more on the economics of art and the art market, Paley wrote at her website that she "concluded that high-end art is a form of currency for elites.
"Art museums and critics encourage us peasants to believe the value in these 'priceless art treasures' is based on utility (i.e., the more they cost, the more 'genius' they contain). But the value of high end art is due to collectors attaching their surplus capital to it. A million-dollar painting has all the utility of a million-dollar bill. Its value is created not by the artist, but by the collector. When a reputable collector puts a million dollars into a painting, another collector may buy it for more than a million dollars. The art market forms its own economy, with its own financial industry."
Ergo, Paley is asking for a $10,000 bill — she believes they actually are no longer in circulation — from anyone who wants to buy "Bargain (Ten Thousand Dollars)." The artist sounds serious but sometimes it's hard to tell when she's joking.
Paley, 45, began making art quilts around 2011, after she finished "Sita Sings the Blues," which she wrote, directed, produced and animated herself.
With "Sita" she used primarily 2-D computer graphics and Flash animation, winning a place in the history of animation.
She started making art quilts while living in New York, likely because it gave her something to do with her hands other than work at a computer, as she does with her animation.
"Fabric and thread are real. The animation I do is virtual," she said.
She made all of her quilts from cotton except for "Shedus," which depicts a pair of winged bulls.
"That's an experiment I did with this polyester silk, shiny-slippery-awful-to-work-with polyester silk," she said.
Paley is now working on a "proprietary gig, a segment for a Hollywood movie.
"When that's done I'll get back to 'Seder-Masochism.' But I have no time for art quilts right now," she said.
If you go
What: "Art Quilts & Animation: New Works and Old by Nina Paley"
When: Saturday through Sept. 15; opening reception at 6 p.m. Saturday and a screening at 8 p.m. Saturday of Paley's award-winning animated musical feature, "Sita Sings the Blues"
Where: Sleepy Creek Vineyards, 8254 E. 1425 N Road, Fairmount, 3 miles south of Oakwood off Interstate 74 between Urbana and Danville