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Life Arts

Quilt Artist Scrooged in London by US Embassy - What's Art? Who Decides?

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Kate Cox by Kate Cox

Kate Cox is a fiber artist who creates wearable art and contemporary art quilts and has taught and lectured across Europe and the US. She's been working and living in the U.S. on an artist visa since 2005.

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But now her art and her life are being questioned by the U.S. Embassy, which has suddenly seemed to change its position on whether textile art is "real art" or not.

Caryl's Sunset by Kate Cox by Kate Cox

Born in Britain, but deeply inspired by the American landscape, Kate finally fulfilled her dream of living and working in the USA when she received a visa and moved to Colorado in 2005. Kate teaches quilting and exhibits her work at the Denver Art Museum, and her award-winning work has been in exhibitions, galleries, and many publications.

Photo of the Denver Art Museum, architect: Daniel Libeskin, photo by Adam Craind by wiki

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Kate's had an O-1 (Artist) Visa for over 8 years. These are renewable annually as long as the alien continues working in a professional capacity.

But recently a solitary agent of the US Embassy in London seemed to question whether Kate was a professional, or an artist, or both, and threatened to revoke her visa.

October is National Arts and Humanities Month, so it is a perfect time to ask, "What is art? And, does the medium determines whether work is considered "real art," or is skill the determinant?"

The non-profit SAQA ( Studio Art Quilt Associates) was founded in 1989 in part to promote public understanding of the art quilt through education, exhibitions, professional development and documentation. SAQA defines an art quilt as "a contemporary artwork exploring and expressing aesthetic concerns common to the whole range of visual arts: painting, printmaking, photography, graphic design, assemblage and sculpture, which retains, through materials or technique, a clear relationship to the folk art quilt from which it descends."

Poster for textile art exhibit by Jean Ray Laury, 1978 by Jean Ray Laury

Professional artist Jean Ray Laury, author of over 30 books, was a pioneer of the art quilt movement. One of her art quilts was selected as one of the 100 best quilts of the twentieth century, and her "message quilts," are a refreshing, creative and feminist-flavored combo of Lichtenstein's pop art, Warhol's graphic design and the fun of Peter Max.

Detail, Barefoot and Pregnant by Jean Ray Laury

Jean described the aspects of an art quilt: "Traditional designs no longer meet our needs. Creativity and inventiveness make it possible to modify and rejuvenate the old approaches and techniques. Systems of construction in quiltmaking are strong, durable, and beautiful. If we can retain the structural integrity of the traditional quilt and add to it a contemporary approach to color and design, we will achieve a quilt which merges past and present."

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John Anderson, editor of said in their Daily Blog, "Apparently, the US Embassy doesn't believe that being a renowned quilter and textile artist is 'real' art," and he is convinced that "if it was a man who painted on canvas, the visa would have gone through unquestioned."

"Improvisational Landscapes," Kate's episode for The Quilt Show's popular internet video series, premiered in March, 2010.

Kate Cox taping The Quilt Show with Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson by Kate Cox

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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