The purpose of this paper is to pursue the themes of feminine identity, doubling and (in)visibility; first in terms of “signifyin(g)” as a cultural and literary strategy, and second, in terms of quilting seen from the fiction of Alice Walker to the quilting of Gee's Bend. In the background, there plays the relationship between art and commodification.
The paper examines “commodification” and “doubling” in the case of the Gee's Bend quilt makers. The quilts foreshadow the modernist aesthetic and are of the highest aesthetic quality. They were made in a traditional rural society by very poor uneducated black women. The quilts were not made to be sold, but were dedicated to familial remembrance and to immediate aesthetic pleasure.
Commodification doubles self and work, life and object, uniqueness and standardization, art and management. For the artist, the unicity, beauty, inspiration and creativity of art is doubled in the sale, marketing, display, distribution and mass production of “art works.” Making art is intimate, personal and individual; selling art requires public display, pleasing the all‐important customer(s) and dealing with many sorts of in‐betweens. What “commodification” is on the artist/art work level, is “doubling” on the I/me, self/persona, private/public, and in‐group/out‐group level.
The author proposes, from the example of quilt‐making, a wide‐ranging interrogation: “Is escape from commodification possible?”
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