Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inherent Vice

One of the art blogs I frequent is Unframed, "a blog of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art intended to create a conversation about the art and artists of LACMA, Los Angeles, and Southern California." Usually there's not much quilt-y on Unframed, but yesterday they had a neat post about saving a red and green applique quilt, 'Oak Leaf and Reel' made between 1845 and 50 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Along with the quilty goodness, I learned a new term, "inherent vice." No, that's not a description of my undying love of cupcakes. Here's how they used it:
The iron component of the black dye, used to create fine lines in a few of the red appliqu├ęs, has weakened the cotton fabric. The red sections have literally perforated and split—or, even worse, fallen out. This damage is no one’s fault. Conservators have a fancy word for it: inherent vice.
From Webster's we get the following definition:
A weakness in the chemical or physical composition of a document or other object that causes it to deteriorate from within over time, for example, acid in the lignin contained in papers made from untreated wood pulp, or the chemical instability of cellulose nitrate film. If conservation measures fail, preservation of the item may require reformatting.
It's also the title of a 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon, which is sitting on our bookshelf, unread.
Exciting new terminology aside, in the close ups of the quilt you can make out the amazingly perfect way the deterioration of the fabric makes a sort of cutwork. Contemplate creating a quilt that decays in such a way that it becomes more beautiful and intricate over time.