anathema aka how we are drawn to what we fear

Posted: August 26, 2015 by Mo Crow in It's Crow Time
Tags: ,

anathemadictionary definition of anathema (noun) – something that is ​strongly ​disliked or ​disapproved of

When I started out as a bright young thing full of hopes and dreams of being an artist the most awful thing I could thing of was ending up at 60 painting pretty flowers on porcelain… to celebrate this memory I bought this cup for xmas, broke it a few months later and bought another one! I love the old fashioned prettiness, the fine rim, the packaging and the price – $12, it is mass produced in China.
So, you wonder where am I going with this?
I have a tendency towards the literal, drawing helps me understand what I see in the world, over the years I have enjoyed working in botanical illustration both for commissioned signage & personal pleasure, here’s a favourite flannel flower drawing from the xmas card series 1991-2014
it would be very easy for me to embroider flowers on doilies and handkerchiefs like this beauty from a friend that her mother had embroidered many years ago
vintage embroidered  flannel flower hankie
I love this, it’s beautifully stitched and understands the nature of flannel flowers
here’s a photo I took of one back in December
flannel-flower-Mo14and a drawing of the same plant which I may well use for my xmas card this year
flannel-flower-out-of-the-blue-Mo-14so where’s the anathema in all this?
it’s in the rub, the friction between my love of gardening and bushwalking and the process of drawing to understand the world more deeply that can become too twee, almost nauseatingly sentimental & kitsch in translation…
I’m running close to that line this week with The Hands of Fate & ran it close back in 2011 with the Stole of Bandaged Hearts
It’s an edge I have been exploring all my life, sometimes it works but sometimes it’s truly awful… I tried to find the beautifully rendered old watercolour of a unicorn walking out of the glade surrounded by dripping wisteria and stars that was the pinnacle of kitsch in my lifetime but I must have thrown it out in the last big clearing (just as well!)
eX de Medici explores the edge of anathema better than anyone
have a look at her work here

  1. oh my gosh – I’m with you here. With me its also the science background – wanting the details to be correct …

    • Mo Crow says:

      Jane, your years of scientific observations are pushing your work into the realms of Art with a capital “A”, in an online interview eX de Medici talks about her background as an Artist Fellow working with unclassified animals for the CSIRO here

  2. eX de Medici is kitsch for all the time it takes to get up close and see what’s happening in her work! As people who use textiles in their art this is a real issue, as much to do with the expectations of other people as ourselves. I had two radio interviews when I had my last solo show using long stitch to depict urban graffiti. ABC Local were fantastic and really got into the subject and subverting the medium but the local arts reporter only asked me about the number of embroiderers in Canberra etc which I don’t know much about as I am not part of the guild. Very depressing. He didn’t really ‘see’ what had been made, just went with his view that embroidery equalled hobby. Urghhh.

    • Mo Crow says:

      your long stitch graffiti is stunning work Leonie! I used to get all hot and bothered when our gardening customers would talk about my art and Old Man Crow’s music as nice hobbies but then I remembered that fateful day when I was 18 years old with all the high hopes and dreams still intact & promised myself I would make a living from my hobbies after seeing my father sacrifice his life and mind to the corporate machine now known as Exxon… I also promised myself that I would live a life with no regrets but there are a few… I have not always been kind…

  3. NOW YOU ARE A HEROIN OF THE FORGOTTEN, THE MISUNDERSTOOD, THE OTHERS. That on top of being a formidable artist, loving friend and mate, garden guru and all round swell gal, well, if there were a few unkind moments, what of that? Only makes you a human of the tribe. Blessings

  4. fiberels says:

    Hmmmm looked your “flannel flower” up … doesn’t look like anything growing here …
    Are there really hairs on the petals ?? Then it might look a bit like the Edelweiss
    (mountain flower in the Alps … )

    • Mo Crow says:

      the petals of flannel flowers are furry & soft in texture like flannel sheets hence the name, Australian coastal heath plants are very tough as are the alpine meadow plants of Europe but flannel flowers can’t tolerate frost and edelweiss would never cope with our scorchingly hot summers, ditto Peonies, Tibetan Blue Poppies, Lilacs and Weeping Cherries I have to visit the Blue Mountains to see these.

      • fiberels says:

        (well … you can’t have it all … 😉 !)

        • Mo Crow says:

          I can try hehe!
          In the background of all this nervous flitting about between ideas (aka procrastinating) I have been thinking about how here in Australia it’s not a good idea to “skite”* about your work, so I am “taking the piss”* so as not to be seen as “a legend in my own lunchtime”* but to tell the truth I am getting quite excited about having enough work to fill a gallery for the first time in my life in one year for the Crow Show!
          * Australian words and phrases defined for those from foreign lands
          skite = boast
          take the piss = make fun of in a self deprecating sort of way
          a legend in her own lifetime = a person who thinks very highly of themselves, for no apparent reason.

  5. fiberels says:

    Ha, ha, forgot : I myself wouldn’t buy your pretty cup 😉 ….
    But I would like one with your flannel flower !

    • Mo Crow says:

      my mother was appalled by this cup when I sent her a photo at xmas it reminded her of her mother’s (my grandmother’s) fragile bone china tea cups with matching saucers which were kept behind glass under lock and key

  6. grace says:

    love the thoughts here and held them myself in the adding of the Magic scrap this morning….
    it’s a fine line, but sometimes it just needs to happen. period.
    The gloves are not not not kitschy…NOT. o, NOT.

  7. Marti says:

    I don’t have many conversations about Art because I often feel out of my depth to articulate what I see and more importantly feel. Mo, when heart and vision come together, as in your gloves, there is no edge, there is only a powerful presence of creating that simply astounds. I have been looking quietly at these gloves and from the beginning wondered how you could possibly do what you were going to do…I should not have been concerned because you have this ability to translate what comes to you so clearly. What I know Mo is this: your artistry moves me and informs me in ways that I treasure and simply put, kitschy does not do that…!

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Marti))) the hands of fate have the potential to work some good magic and may even be Art one day, the concept is good but it’s in the translation from dream to reality that they will either fly or crash into just another pretty attempt at making magic which can become the most awful kitsch… believe me I have made some truly ugly things in my life! The piece de resistance was a glass water lily made at art school in 1986… the petals were clunky kiln formed blue glass, the stamens were flameworked yellow glass that went all wobbly when they were siliconed in place, the lily pad was engraved green glass, it looked a lot like something out of Little Shop of Horrors (the ’50’s B grade classic with Jack Nicholson) a fellow student who has a house full of kitsch loved it so we did a swap, I never took a photo it was truly dreadful but did work very well with her sense of decor!
      PS an American artist who runs this line brilliantly is Mark Ryden

  8. coloremartine says:

    Flannel flower? I dont recognise it in the photograf but the drawing looks very much like Echinacea. I’ve studied that flower all afternoon…………..

  9. One of my favourite flowers Mo!! Love that hankie so simply done but so exquisite!
    Louise x

  10. Carol says:

    Love your Stole of Bandaged Hearts, Mo, and I’m pretty sure it misses kitchness by a mile. There’s been so much to take in in your past few posts and I’m getting right into your links, so it’s all taking me many happy hours…

    • Mo Crow says:

      it’s all in the dance with the dualities in life, being a Piscean I am always circling the liminal space in between from two different directions & making art has to take risks to fly
      PS the Stole of Bandaged Hearts does work & may well be the best thing I have made in this lifetime

  11. Julie Banks says:

    Kitchyness (is that a word?) is in the eye (and mind) of the beholder. Love your work for its thoughtful insights. Your Actinotus cards were among my favourites perhaps because of their simplicity and purity, however I may be biased!

  12. summertimes says:

    I love this post. It is so interesting to see how our lives progress and what sticks with us. I am also analyzing the past years. Something we do as we age, I guess. I also love the gloves. I don’t write much here but I wanted you to know I am always watching..

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