College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date

6-2014

Document Type

Thesis

College/Department Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies

Keywords

quilting, gender studies, craft, aestetics, ethic of care

Abstract

When traditionally feminized crafts such as quilting are embraced as fine art, the discourses surrounding their "elevation" often serve to bolster the power of art world establishments by referencing the tenets of modernism and employing mutually reinforcing aesthetic hierarchies. In this thesis, I aim to understand the gendered politics of the separation between art and craft, and to analyze how the forces shaping the definitions of "art" and "artist" are drawn along lines of gender, class, race, and nationality. I utilize feminist aesthetics, craft aesthetics, and feminist ethics of care to examine problems of artists' appropriation of quilting, traditional myths of art and individuality, the disregarding of utility in dominant aesthetics, the devaluation of feminized labor, and consumerism and craft as a luxury. I argue that a feminist analysis of quilting must include a re-evaluation of what counts as "art," shifting the focus to a broader view of art that values quilting on its own terms, embracing its heritage as a feminized domestic craft. This feminist approach to quilt scholarship facilitates the potential for alternative aesthetics that nurture human creativity by blurring and destablizing dominant aesthetic hierarchies. Quilting's heritage as a form of women's domestic art also provides potential for employing collective innovation via the use of the humble pattern; hand-making as care of oneself, loved ones, and community; embracing the aesthetic qualities of utility; resisting commodification through heirloom-value; and resisting consumerism with a scrap-quilt aesthetic.

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