There Was No Penis.

So. To clarify. There isn’t an actual penis in this quilt. Surely there are other things people could freak out about, but not a penis. So my quilt was pulled from AQS Grand Rapids because of something That Is Not Actually THERE. Yup. That’s something to be significantly irritated about. No number of cover-ups would help, because it’s just not fucking there.

I’d like to thank my readers for bringing up two penile possibilities though. First, here’s the full quilt again, for those who had a blessedly relaxing Saturday without staring at blogs or Facebook (good on you!).

Kathy Nida 72

This quilt is I Was Not Wearing a Life Jacket, completed in September 2010, touring with the People and Portraits exhibit since October 2013. The title comes from a radio ad I was listening to while pondering the meaning of this quilt, which came almost entirely out of a running nightmare I had for over a week, where I was losing things in the water and people were standing around not helping, and I was diving down and trying to find the things I lost, which ranged from my phone to babies, actual babies, and I’d wake up panicked and breathing fast. Here’s the official statement (which I found very difficult to write…almost as difficult to explain the piece)…

Two sisters in a strange land.
A lost life jacket.
A nasty oil spill.
No explanation needed.

My dream inhabited by strangers.

So first of all, the two people in the water are sisters. I have been told the one on the right reads as a male. OK. I don’t really mind when people interpret my work. I put it out there and sometimes there’s a clear message and sometimes there’s not. It’s a surreal collection of crap that inhabited my head. This is one of those. It’s not the first one and it won’t be the last. Take from it what you will.

I started with a bunch of smaller drawings of pieces of the nightmare…done mostly while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. The woman giving birth (except no umbilical cord in this one…think this was more about the losing a baby into the water)…

Jun 7 10 009 small

The sister on the left in a larger drawing…

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Which in the redraw, became this (the one from which I made the quilt)…

Jun 14 10 002 small

See any penises? No. You don’t.

This was the whole original drawing…I hated the figures on the right…but it was a start.

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This was one of the pre-drawings as well…I still like this one.

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Oh wait…there’s a shadow…under a hand. Keep that in your head…

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Here was the full sketchbook drawing for the quilt…then I enlarged it and added to the side and bottom. I don’t honestly know why…but I can check my weekly art journal for that time period.

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All it says is that I enlarged it and added stuff to bottom and right side, finished drawing in late June 2010, 1300+ pieces in it. I liked having a big piece to work on over the summer back then (well, I still do, but I’m more likely to work on big pieces all year round now). So yeah. Started drawing in May…dreaming in May…drawing done in June, quilt done in September.

So some people thought the umbilical cord on the woman/baby in the background might have been seen as a (really long, bendy) penis (that just happened to be attached to a baby’s bellybutton and in a woman’s vagina).

Kathy Nida umbilical crop

Nope. Just gonna tell her the truth. That’s not a penis. It’s a baby. Yes, some babies have penises, but they’re not long and curly and in a mother’s vagina. Seriously. Some people have criticized sex education in Michigan. OK. But I think the show folks could help the penis-imaginer with her understanding.

This is the figure some have called male (I guess because no obvious girly curves?). And someone mentioned the shadow under the hands as possibly being interpreted as a penis…

Kathy Nida woman crop

So below on the left, under the hands, you can see the shadowy bit…on the right, I outlined the entire shadow to show that is certainly not even penis-shaped. Again, something show organizers could have pointed out and/or realized.

Kathy Nida woman shadow cropKathy Nida woman shadow line crop

Seriously though, if I’m going to put a penis in a quilt, it’s gonna be pretty obvious…like in Work in Progress

Nida_1 copy small

Look. It’s a penis. Clearly. I even put a red arrow pointing at it so you would not miss it.

Nida_1 penis

Some people like to accuse me of wanting attention or making art for shock value. I really don’t. I just draw. And then I make quilts out of some of them. I don’t think about what all y’all are gonna think when you see it. The making is not about you. And no, I don’t do pretty landscapes. I do stuff that’s a reaction to what’s in my head, what I dreamed about, what’s out in the world. I’m not scared or shocked by nudity and it often confuses me when other people are.

And then some people tell me to ignore the naysayers, the critics, the censors, the quilt police…but here’s the problem with ignoring it. It Doesn’t Stop. It Doesn’t Go Away. I want to live in a world where I don’t have to worry about what’s in my art because someone might be offended or censor me. Because I’m truly tired of that. I did worry a bit when they told me this exhibit was doing the AQS circuit, because that’s quilt shows. And I don’t really enter quilt shows any more because of this shit. Often when I enter a show, I don’t even know where the piece will travel. And sometimes, because I’m oldish (not really old yet, but older than I was when I started making art), I do consider just holing up, being even more of a hermit and introvert than I already have become, and ignoring everyone. But it’s not in my nature to ignore stupidity and ignorance and censorship. It’s in my nature to be the person that stands up and yells about it. Because I want it to stop for everyone. My kids. Younger artists. All of us. I don’t want to be 90 years old and still getting frustrated over this shit. I want the world to be a more accepting and tolerant place than it is right now, and it doesn’t feel that way AT ALL.

So that’s where I’m at. Surely I won’t stop making and exhibiting quilts. I even have a grand idea for a penis quilt now. You’ll laugh. Seriously. But in reality, I have a whole ‘nother quilt in process right now, school starts tomorrow, and I’m still pissed off and frustrated, but it won’t stop me. I just want AQS to realize that it was a stupid thing they did and they need to either stand up for the special exhibits in their shows or get out of the art-quilt world. I can’t change the mind of that woman who imagined a penis. I just wish the show organizers had handled it in a mature and reasonable way. They didn’t.

And here’s the thing…this is the quilt that was hanging next to it…Fully Medicated

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And that is a seriously large vulva…

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With a snake peeking out above it. And that didn’t put her panties in a wad.

Walk by it people. If you don’t like it, if it makes your heart flutter in a bad way, if you feel a need to call Fox News, just walk the fuck on by. It’s what I do when I see your bad compositions and copies of things that are overdone already and crappy color choices. I walk the fuck on by.

Still pissed. But it’s OK. It’s not going to stop me.

56 thoughts on “There Was No Penis.

  1. Perhaps the uptight crazy woman who complained about the penis has possibly never *seen* a penis? And quite likely doesn’t know what a vulva looks like either. Pity the closeminded and ignorant….they don’t know how small and dull their worlds are.
    I love your stuff. I find you very inspiring.


    1. I personally want to thank the AQS officials for pulling your quilt. I also want to thank the woman who found it offensive in the first place. They have done the artistic community a great service. What they have done is made sure that your quilt has been seen by many more people than by just those who paid to attend the AQS venue. I had the privilege to view your quilt and read your inspiration for it: something I would not have learned walking past it at the show. I also had several brilliant conversations with family and friends (all artists and women), about censorship, but, most importantly, my 13 year old daughter. She is a brilliant, artistic, articulate young woman and your experience came at the perfect time for us to discuss artistic expression, censorship, and having the courage to say what’s in your heart and head without regard to your audience. Bravo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m extremely disappointed in the decision made by AQS. Your quilts are fantastically beautiful, and I’m sorry AQS did not defend your right to exhibit this one. Let us all keep testing these provincial boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This makes my blood boil. It feels like the bully won! I do hope AQS rethinks this decision but if they stand by it then it must be address in the entry rules. Your artwork has certainly helped push “quilts” into the art world – Thank you.


  4. So now things are censored and pulled from view just because of what one person “thinks” she saw. She must have been some real rich bitch or something.

    I only have a bi-annual quilt show where I live but you can be sure I’m going to find some way to get those Sunbonnet Sue’s declared obscene and pulled from the show. I will cause a real scene

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh YES please!!!! They offend me. Take Fisherman Fred while you’re at it. (I’m sure he’s got a penis under his overalls – don’t need to see it – it’s there for sure.)


  5. Kathy,
    We have not met, I saw the post on the SAQA digest and followed the link to your blog and to Tonya’s (Love the title Tonya used). I wonder too who made the decision to pull your quilt, ridiculous. I hope all is straightened out in time for the other two AQS shows. Keep doing what you are doing!


  6. Your work is wonderful.
    I am sending AQS a letter asking how one person’s seeing something that is NOT there manages to be more important than my right TO see the art.
    And, of course, question if they will be censoring any other exhibits in Paducah, as I may not want to bring my van-load of people next year, the ones who have been contributing thousands of dollars to the Paducah economy each year for the past 25 years!
    But more importantly, your work is beautiful, I hope to be able to see it “in the cloth”.


  7. Seriously? I see nothing offensive there, and I saw no penises. I loved your explaination of the quilt, as I didn’t understand a fair amount of it. Funny, that, I’m an artist, too. In that art is how you, the artist sees it I would take another’s interpretation with a grain of salt, as whoever pulled your quilt from the show should’ve.

    Keep on doing your own art as you see it, and teach anyone that learns from you that to each person their art is their own. And as for an obvious penis quilt, I say go for it. Make them obvious, make them subtle, big, small, circumcised, uncircumcised, deformed, erect or flaccid, natural colors, unnatural colors, and definitely offensive.


  8. I have actually studied your quilt for a long time. I FOUND IT! On the tree, the little birdie is right there in plain sight. Laugh a little and love a lot. Life is to short.


  9. I’m not going to say ‘ignore them’. I AM going to say- keep it up. Art is meant to stir reactions in people, so well done. The problem lies in the censorship. Shame on the people who pulled your quilt.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rock on, Kathy. My first reaction to what penis lady should have done in this situation was the same as yours-walk on by. Keep up the good work. Maybe in future, AQS will come to their senses. Since when do we let one critic decide what goes into an art show of any kind?


  11. Actually, I DO see a penis like shape. But only in the blow up of the hands…in the closeup hands picture. On the RIGHT side. It is a very sjort penis, but the coloration of the fabric males a vaguely phallic shapex. Obviously this was a person that is immensely interested in phalli (is that the plural of phallus?) My question is how did this person get close enough to spot the shrinky dink? Sex maniacs…..can’t trust them to follow the rules!


  12. You create the most beautiful original pieces of art and I am astounded by your talent. Shame on them. Onwards and upwards! x


  13. HAHAHAHA….I would be honored to so offend someone that they pulled my quilt. Seriously, I have seen some people offended by the dumbest things. I have come close….I had the breasts on my mermaid quilt covered by masking tape in one show….I kid you not.
    Keep it up. Art should never be ashamed


  14. I have not been a fan of AQS for a while now for a number of reasons, and this just validates my opinion of them.


  15. That woman was a complete twunt. You made a breathtaking, thought-provoking quilt. I deplore AQS’ decision — one complaint out of the thousands that viewed the quilt? That woman would have a heart attack if she ever walked into the Accademia Gallery in Florence and saw David; what would she do then? Ask them to please remove the statue to a back room because her sensibilities were offended? After they finished laughing, they would have shown her the door, which is what AQS officials should have done.


    1. I thought of David immediately too! And what an awe inspiring statue it is… This entire conversation reminds me of the Vatican penis cover up… And all of the beautiful art that was altered…you’d think we’d have moved forward since then…apparently not everyone!


  16. I saw this quilt hanging in Daytona earlier this year. Certainly did not see a penis, would have remembered that! Didn’t fully understand it but after reading about your inspiration I get it. It did make me stop and think for a bit, which is kinda the point of art in my opinion, isn’t that what makes art “good”?


  17. I do not envy your dreams! But, you make incredible art out of them! I’m a hand weaver, an artisan, not an artist, but art is supposed to be many things…. Relax, soothe, create emotions… & knock you right out of your chair!!!
    Your work grabs one & shakes the living hell out of the viewer. It’s marvelous.
    I couldn’t live with it, day by day, because of the riot inside my head, but, I’m so glad you do your work.
    Keep shaking people up!


  18. I think your work is terrific! It’s interesting and courageous in its content. I would stop and look at your work in person. Offend away! That’s what makes great art. I thought I had weird dreams… Inspiring!


  19. Wow, didn’t see a penis in sight – darn it! It’s amazing what some people object to and then the people that cater to it:-( Like you if something doesn’t strike – just walk on by:-) Sorry your quilt was pulled from the show – it’s amazing!


  20. wow! How incredibly frustrating!! Your quilts are holy shit awesome and so are your drawings and I’m so so confused but this whole “eeeek a PENIS” like half of the population on this earth doesn’t have one. And do see one where there isn’t actually one is just a new level. Keep on making beautiful art, with or without penises! <2


  21. I’m no artist like you but I recently made a fun quilt. It was to be used on a boat in the Florida Keys where the people who own it live and drink beer. I bought beer fabric and had some of the sea creatures drinking a beer. A lot weren’t, it was just fun and for their boat. They took every beer bottle off because it implied I thought they drank too much! What the fuck? I drink, I drank on their boat, it’s the Keys. At least your quilt still has the phantom penis. Just move on and look at the next quilt is right, I hope they never go to France or Italy and see the great museums. Oh my


  22. Ok, the obvious thing is the judge or person who rejected the quilt is fairly undereducated. Both in art and human anatomy. I suppose the dirtier the mind, the dirtier the images it wants to see. I sincerely hope you file a discrimination lawsuit for censorship and breach of contract since there were probably no “rules or guidelines” that expressly said you cannot show naked (oops dirty word) Nude people, penises, vaginas, mammary glands or any other human body part that is scientifically proven to exist.


  23. Reblogged this on Wicked Quilts Custom Quilt Company and commented:
    Art in conflict.
    Recently AQS removed an artist’s work based on the censorship cries of one person. The art in question was created by Kathy Nida.
    If you don’t like the art just keep on walking… If the quilting community continues to police art under vintage concepts it will never see new growth. Quilts are breaking out of the design of squares and triangles and that should be celebrated.
    Honestly, conflict draws attention and me personally, I would have used it as a media event to draw attention to the show! It could potentially bring in a new audience to what may be a dying art.

    AQS and the quilt world missed a great opportunity to reach outside of its comfort zone to draw in a new audience.


  24. I think I’m in love with you. I feel this way too. I wish everyone would just calm the hell down. Life is fleeting and should be savored and enjoyed. We should all be open to new and exciting things, or penises.


  25. I am SO disappointed to read this! I saw your quilt at the Phoenix AQS show. How could your quilt hang in other AQS shows without a problem and then all of a sudden grow a penis (not that a penis should have precluded it from hanging)? smh 😦

    I studied your quilt for a Loooong time 🙂 It is amazing. And seeing your sketch book and description of its birth (see what I did there? lol) added even more dimension to my understanding of the quilt. Your technique and execution in making this quilt is truly awe inspiring.

    As I said, I stood in front of your quilt for a long time. I saw many reactions. Oh how I wish you had a hidden camera to review people’s reactions! I understand you do not make your art for reactions but it was so fun to watch! Two older women (in their 70s easily) were literally stopped in their tracks. Mouths dropped open and they quickly looked away and walked on. . . The woman with the imaginary penis ruling should have done the same! Mostly though, the reaction from most viewing your quilt was one of wonderment and awe.

    I am so glad I was able to see your quilt! Rock on with your very talented self! 🙂


  26. Thank you, a million thank yous. Oh to make a quilt that offends.To rattle cages and create controversy. You are a muse. I believe that creating is our Great Spirit creating through us. Our dreams, happy and unsettling, are a reflection of our experiences. I am inspired by your work and words. Keep it up. Feel honored to be among the Bad Ass Artists.

    I quit AQS years ago because I found their magazine stifling.


  27. Ok… If I saw this quilt in a quilt show…yes…I’d walk on by… Because of sexuality? Heck no… Because this quilt portrays nightmares all of us have!!!! It scares me! But isn’t that what art should do? Move us? I absolutely love quilting and my ability to express myself but absolutely HATE the close minded people that feel it is their place to judge!


  28. I have messaged AQS and asked them to either reinstate the quilt that doesn’t have a penis on it, or to stop putting art on show if they’re not prepared to defend its right to be there.

    Seriously. What muppets.

    Your work is extraordinary.


  29. Love the quilt and even if there were hundreds of penises( penii)?? in it as long as they were in context who should care. I bet she would chop the dicks off the statues in museums if she could….just like the Victorians.
    Molli Sparkles dick quilt will cause an uproar, look what happened to the pattern on Craftsy – bet it was the same woman who complained.


  30. Aside from the ridiculousness of it being removed because someone ‘thought they saw a penis’, I think the larger question is, even if it DID have a penis on it…SO. FREAKING. WHAT?

    Keep these people away from every art museum in the world…


  31. Amen sister! If you are offended by something, walk the hell away! If its a “crime” like some fool wagging his penis in public, call the cops! But if it simply an expression of someone’s dream state, grow the hell up and accept responsibility for your emotional reaction to it. You can control YOUR reaction to art, the artist cannot and should not be required to keep YOU from being an adult!


  32. I was right behind you all the way until the end as I’ve never been one to bitch about a penis, unless it’s inadequate. I realize this is YOUR blog, but a cheap shot at Fox News doesn’t really add much to the argument that the complainer was an idiot and AQS even more so. I can understand you’re pissed, but there’s no need to piss all over unrelated things. After all, you have the full support of this conservative.


  33. I just published a post regarding the BadAss Quilters Society call for quilters to participate in the “The Skin We Are In” exhibition:

    For an image, I linked to the URL of your photo of your “offensive” quilt without asking first for your permission, assuming that you’re fine with that as you allow reblogging anyway. If you mind, please say so and I’ll remove the image.


  34. My question what if there was a penis! ??? does that mean it is out?? Boobs and vaginas are OK, but not a penis?? these people censoring art in 2016? I thought we were done with this BS!


  35. A Penis, an invisible penis! Did the complainer have an anchor tied to her rear and couldn’t move? I wasnt able to make the show so, I have benefitted from this idiotic banning. But, I am sorry this has happened to you. Please keep making nonpenis quilts.


  36. Why are vaginas okay, but penises aren’t? If you go to the Vatican museum, you will see that all the male sculptures have fig leaves – often not made of the same material as the statue underneath – that have been affixed sometime in history, probably by some dutiful monks. But are the female genitalia covered? Nooooo.


  37. People are so bizarre, we have had naked bodies shown in great works of art since the first cave drawings were discovered. You have a great talent and don’t change it for narrow minded people. I enjoyed looking at your finished work and the steps leading up to it. Maybe an art gallery would appreciate more your concepts but don’t give up on the quilting world I love controversy and did a wall hanging of a naked woman so I hope to see more of your fantastic work in the future!


  38. Hahaha! I saw this 70 year old woman on a photo standing in the crowd of a demonstration for female rights. On her sign: I can’t believe I still fight this fucking shit.
    Thanks for having your attitude and thanks for writing about it. I can’t wait the giant penis quilt.


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