Almost young and wild and free by Colleen Heslin
It has been announced that Vancouver artist Colleen Heslin has won the RBC Painting Competition. Her painting was a standout for me when I looked through the glossy booklet with images from all the finalists, but probably only because it was so "textile-y". Overall, I felt the selection of paintings was unimpressive, even banal. My opinion was further coloured by my subsequent leafing through the latest issue of Canadian Art. I felt so depressed and unengaged by the articles and images, and slumped home from the library feeling that my last several years of art-making were so out of touch with the zeitgeist that I should just end it all now. Today, I read the juror's rationale for choosing Heslin's work.
Created with ink, dye and acrylic on cotton, Heslin’s winning work was praised by the jury for its fresh approach to the painting tradition. The artist was praised for moving beyond convention by using stitchery and staining as well as for her allusions to “mending and making” in the medium of textiles.
I am speechless.

Well, not quite. I wonder where the jurors have been all these years. I guess they have never stepped beyond the boundaries of "real" art galleries, never gone to a show of textile art, and never Googled "allusions of mending and making".

I better stop now. I might say something very un-lady-like.


  1. I think the art critics have been breathing their own rarefied air for much too long!

  2. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I have never made a comment before but after reading what seemed like doubt or discouragement in your post I want to encourage you to keep creating. Your art is inspiring, both in concept and in the way you execute it and it is a genuine pleasure to check in and find a new post with something you've made. Keep up the great work!!

  3. The more I move in the art world and the more I see that there are artists who have a 'career' because they are commercial, others who are much more inspiring, original and truly artistic go nowhere because they are not commercial.
    I chose to belong to the second group, where I am in very good company!

  4. Anonymous4:44 AM

    Even art critics develop a status quo vision and find it hard to think out of the box. They're just catching up to where you and thousands of other super-creative fibre artists have already been. Pat yourself on the back for having taken the more interesting road.


  5. Anonymous4:52 AM

    By the way, if you want to watch a show based on the haunting power of embroidery, look for Lark Rise to Candleford, season 1 episode 9. You can find the entire BBC series on Youtube. Best use of a piece of embroidery in a historical drama EVER!


    Here are more of her images.

  7. LOl, Louisa ..rarified air indeed! I think they been farting in a locked closet.

    I caught on to this self-congratulatory circus of fools in my second year of art school and jumped ship for a technical career. I make art for my own pleasure and if anyone else likes it, bully for them!

  8. Insulting but funny but sad---heads up asses and afraid to look at the rest of the world. Reminds me of Germaine Greer's "review" a few years ago saying "Making pictures from strips of cloth isn't art at all - but it mocks art's pretentions to the core."---How someone can be so narrow minded about the art world just blows me away!

  9. Whenever my crits came up in art school - MFA in Sculpture from Bard College in NY- I got its moving, but is it art?

    Yes it is art and it's interesting that I was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation for Painters and Sculptors in 2012 and even more interestingly four other awardees out of 25 - that's one fifth - used the quilt medium somehow in their work. I of course was the only true quilt maker. The rest were painters and sculptors jumping on the textile bandwagon ;)


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