Throughout the centuries, great artists made the kiss a subject of their paintings and sculptures. Among them Agnolo Bronzino (1540), Peter Paul Rubens (1601), Auguste Rodin (1886), Edvard Munch (1895), Gustav Klimt (1908), and Constantine Brancusi (1912). Most of them dealt with one aspect of kissing, that of passionate romantic love. Interestingly, the attractive theme of "The Kiss" has rarely been incorporated by fiber artists. The curator's curiosity to how this theme would be interpreted by leading quilt artists, initiated this exhibit.
Fifty quilt artists were invited to create and communicate their responses to a visceral, emotion-laden topic. Kissing is a very primal, direct form of human contact. It serves many nonverbal communication purposes in human interactions, from fraternal to passionate to friendship to betrayal. Spoken language further reflects the power of the kiss in communication. Both provided a rich source of inspiration to several of the artists in this exhibit.
Many artists work on themes central to their own personal voyages of discovery and commentary. Working toward a theme assigned from outside is challenging to an artist's creative focus. There was no limit except the uniform size of the quilt. These quilt artists have each examined the theme from their own unique perspective. Several of them incorporated the kiss into their current working series.
Exhibit artists explored alternate meanings of the word "kiss" or interpreted different types of kisses. Some portrayed "The Kiss" as visual, graphic iconic images or with visual representations of the emotions involved when kissing. Others have reflected on their own early personal experiences and memories: a first kiss, a jump-rope chant, a schoolyard game. Some expressed the theme through popular culture - a band, a song, a movie. Several artists have centered their works on the social context of kissing, both illicit and ultrapublic, forbidden and condoned. Some used kisses as expressions of hope, of comfort, of healing. Others reflected affection to pets, kisses in nature or in a humorous manner.
Artwork serves many functions in society but perhaps the most central to the public's purposes is that of communication. The value of making art, for the artist, is often self communication: the results of creative endeavors can be very revelatory. The viewer of this art brings to the work a new vision based on experience filters different from those of the artist. Whether the style of the artwork is representational or abstract, this process of creating, viewing, interpreting, and reinterpreting can enrich and satisfy both the creator and the viewer.
If the viewer is also challenged to reflect, to enjoy, to remember, to think on the topic, then this exhibit has been a complete success.
Rachel Roggel - Jerusalem, Israel
"The Kiss" Exhibit curator, 1998