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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

LOUD Conversation prints!–Love ’em!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Contemporary wax printed textiles stretched onto frames—I’m guessing 24″ x 36″— like art: as stunning as the fashions in the Creative Africa exhibit currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perlman annex. Did you catch my blog post about that? you can look at it here.

The comments are really interesting, as comments always are! The print below, though it seems to belittle conversation and communication, nonetheless speaks to the way all us quilters silently express ourselves through cloth:

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Although most people think of them as African, the fabrics are designed by Dutch designers and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Still, they are inspired by African motifs and symbols, and made into clothing and worn mostly by Africans. Here’s a photo from the collection of African architect Francis Kéré, also shown in the PMA exhibit:

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Clearly, the fabric you wear is an important way of expressing who you are. And your position in society. Here, the reference is to bolts of fabric included in an African woman’s dowry.

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I naturally gravitated toward other motifs related to cutting and stitching:

 

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Symbols of upwardly mobile wealth, especially for women in the market and on the go, also take the forms of fancy shoes, wheels, and cars.

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On the grill of a luxury car, the Vlisco logo takes over for Mercedes Benz.

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Think those cracks in the side mirrors of a Mercedes refer to our warped perceptions of where we’ve come from, i.e., our humble beginnings? Or literally to the batik process of breaking up the wax painted on the fabric so dyes can seep into the cracks?

Another traffic-related print poses the question, are you heading towards love or money?

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Perhaps the most “out-there” fabric from 1953 features a traditional patchwork design around a sort of fertility mandala, shall I say? It’s named after an African proverb that translates to “children are better than money.”

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Stay tuned. My next post will show some distinctly African-made fabrics. In the meantime, how do YOU use conversation prints in your work?

Out of Africa? Wearable Art

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Stunning fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stirs up passions…and questions. Those who know global fabrics have long recognized that the colorful fabrics long associated with Africa come from Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Which begs for an understanding of colonialism and economic exploitation. In any case, Africans as well as Europeans have embraced the fabrics, combining them in ways wild but wearable, even for large ladies.

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From its website (http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/845.html):
Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, April 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017

Explore how the Dutch company Vlisco became one of the most influential textile brands in West and Central African fashion and a design inspiration around the world. Known for its bold and colorful patterns, Vlisco creates fabrics that marry tradition with luxury. This exhibition highlights the company’s classic and new designs, follows the creation of a textile, and showcases a selection of contemporary fashions by African and European makers as well as Vlisco’s in-house design team.
The wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora embrace them as African, the fabrics have long been designed and manufactured in Europe, and now in China and India. The most luxurious are the wax prints designed and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Shortly after its founding in 1846, the company began exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three decades later, Vlisco found a new market in West Africa. This exhibition is offered in conjunction with Creative Africa, a season devoted to African art and design.”
Have a look!

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Sumptuous, right? Would you wear any of these wow’ems?

 

Diaspora in 3-D

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

It took a phenomenal exhibit to move me back to blogging mode–after months of merely Facebooking (sigh).

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Out of Africa: Primal Diaspora, by Buff McAllister; Crossings II, by Sandy Gregg; and Generation 2500, by Barbara Schneider

 

Stories of Migration is a joint venture by SAQA–Studio Art Quilters Assoc. and the Textile Museum, now housed at GW University in DC.  It takes the concept of diaspora, and moves it far beyond the traditional dispersal of Jews following the destruction of the Temple. From the Greek–a scattering or sowing of seeds, it now covers any body of people living outside their homeland. Psychological and evocative reactions and political ramifications are powerful. But because movement and geography, or space, are inherent to this theme, I am moved to share with you just a few pieces that go beyond the art quilt on the wall and take less usual positions.

Above, that big ball is a rolled up strip, 300 yards long, with overlapping hand-prints to depict the people and the journey of homo sapiens over 2500 generations.

Below are three shots of an installation piece by Sara P. Rockinger. She is interested in how “global social issues intersect, overlap, and become stitched together through shared human experience.” Handmade clothing from different cultures are molded and stiffened. Video projections allow the viewer (i.e., me) to become part of the experience, called In/Visible.

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Jane Dunnewold is a favorite artist of mine, working in fabric, paper, and lots of surface treatments. Taking a vintage quilt and handmade and vintage papers, she has used collage and weaving, added spackle and gold leaf to rework the idea of a soft covering for a bed into a symbol of transition and paradox. The title, “Receptacles of Memory,” can be applied to a great number of the pieces in this exhibit.

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I’ve also followed the evolution of Susan Else from quilter of bed quilts to art quilts to fabric sculpture. Above and below is her “Crossing Points.” She explains that decades of injury and counter-injury and outside interests catch people up in a web where they have nothing to lose by leaving.

This piece sits beneath a site-specific installation by Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, called “Undocumented Border Flowers.” Underwood was invited to submit work, as were other celebrated artists (Faith Ringgold is another one). The rest of the artists were juried in.
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More human-scaled, and perhaps more accessible, is this wonderful evocation of what it is to be an urban nomad. Kristin La Flamme has made a shopping cart over into a village, using fabrics from army uniforms, yarn, floss, and bungie cords. It’s called, “Home is Where the Army Sends Us.”

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Hoping this blog post sends YOU to see this exhibit before it closes Sept. 4. And, if you’re still reading, I have a copy of the exhibit catalog to send to someone. Share your personal migration story in the comment box below. Not much room, I know, so try to use fewer than 50 words.  I’ll pick one that particularly inspires me and mail you out this full-color collection showing all the pieces in the exhibit.

Let It Flow

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

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Ahoy there, mateys! Just picking up from my posts of June 29 and July 1. Seems like I row row row my boat, get off of it, get back to it, and row some more. Isn’t that how everyone courses through their bigger projects?

Please excuse the metaphors, if they don’t float your boat. Always thinking of my son and his fiancee as they about halfway through their one-year trip sailing the Great American Loop, which you can read about on their blog, sailbatic.al.

To refresh everyone’s memory, including my own, the wind beneath my sails is a challenge from Quilts for Change, titled Water Is Life. See this post for info, and this post for my launch of the project.

The weavings came together, with lighter and darker sections cut in curves and overlapped, as shown above. Then, I added stream of consciousness phrases with free-motion script:

  • Justice
  • transparent governance
  • wellsprings of knowledge
  • flow of info
  • ponder policies
  • unclouded judgement
  • funding streams
  • wo/mandates
  • fathom the depths

After that, some dense quilting in wavy lines. Then appliques to lighten some areas, tone down others, add interest and contrast and texture.

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The finishing was a whole ‘nuther trip around the bend. One rust binding all around wasn’t enough, so that became an inset with a pieced binding.

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Still not enough. So I auditioned several different sizes and colors of rickrack. Aqua, white, yellow, blue and gold…

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Opted for a yellow green to add light to the whole. Or, as a mutiny against spending more time and angst over this piece. (I’m ready to set sail on a new project.)

Yes, after months, I have finally reached the shore and completed my art quilt today! And submitted images, a bio and a statement.

Title: Let It Flow

Water is a deeply complex issue, swirling with interwoven challenges of safety, security, social justice, and access.

Only transparently clear, progressive, democratic governance can ensure a good flow of information and funding streams.

As the traditional water gatherers who understand what is best for their communities, women deserve a place in discussions and decision-making. When mandates become “womandates,” results are life-affirming.

 

Done! And 9 days before the deadline: a record for this captain of last-minute industry. Making art and quilts is usually a lonely, isolated journey, so comments and constructive criticism are always very welcome! 

Let-It-Flow,ELevie – Version 2

 

Best in Show

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Can’t make it to the Dairy Barn in Athens, OH, where the incomparable juried venue for art quilts, Quilt National 2015, is on view. (dairybarn.org)  But got the catalog, and immediately fell in love with the quilt on the cover.

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I’ve got extraordinarily good taste: the piece, shown below in its entirety,  justifiably won the Best in Show award.

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Girl in the City with Blue Hair, by Karen Schulz 32″ x 59″

As any quilt lover will tell you, an image is a far-distant second to seeing a piece in the cloth, aka up close and personal. So I was thrilled to take a road trip to the Black Rock Art Center in Germantown, MD (near Rockville and Gaithersburg), where I could see several pieces by Karen Schulz. This one commands the space:

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Out the In Door, by Karen Schulz 58″ x 66″

 

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Out the In Door (detail), by Karen Schulz

Also from Karen’s Schapes—er, Shapes series, are these somewhat smaller pieces:

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Beckoning 1, by Karen Schulz 50″ x 40″

 

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Beckoning 2, by Karen Schulz 47″ x 47″

Sorry if the spacing is crazy in this post–I’m struggling with technology here! Derry of Gloderworks will no doubt come to my rescue.

Getting back to the important spaces: Notice how vibrant color blocking in one work is followed with subtle, sophisticated hues in the next. No matter the color palette, the hand-dyed fabrics are warm and rich. The shapes are monumental, angular, powerful. Quilting patterns—whether thin lines or free-motion zigzags alternately on the horizontal and on the vertical, deliver  smart, modern textures that perfectly complement the shapes. And taking the minimalist work to another level entirely:  A counterpoint of comparatively delicate, sketchy lines–couched, embroidered, or quilted. A lyrical dance on a stage of massive columns and platforms. Or, as Karen describes her her process on her website, “I am drawn to the tension created by the simultaneous holding of opposites. Circles and squares, stasis and movement, light and dark, the flat plane and three dimensional space; each is needed to highlight the other.”

Here’s the third one of the series, all of which certainly beckon my attention:

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Beckoning 3, by Karen Schulz 40″ x 27″

 

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Beckoning 3 (detail), by Karen Schulz [The blue shown in this photo is really off!]

Smaller pieces that rock my core:

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Stonehengeish, by Karen Schulz 28″ x 48″

 

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Stacked, by Karen Schulz 26″ x 20″

 

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Bend, by Karen Schulz 45″ x 25″

The title of this last piece aligns with the fact that the artist is a clinical social worker who only recently gave up her private psychotherapy practice treating children, families and adults to devote full time to her art. Bend, as in, stay flexible, be willing to change and grow. Or, as in, that Eleanor Levie is really ’round the bend. Just kidding.  No really. Well, I am crazy about Karen Schulz’s current body of work. If you are, too, mark my words:  Given recent awards, this art quilter’s prices should surely be on the rise. Art collectors, this is the finest in contemporary art… in the medium of quilting. In my book, that means all the rich color of painting, and all the rich texture of sculpture, plus all the rich associative evocations conjured up by fabric, thread, and quilt history. Would one of these works by Karen Schulz look good in your home?

Yup, Karen Schulz is my new favorite artist. And that’s before I saw her picture on her website, www.karen-schulz.com. Wait: I know this person! She was in a Sue Benner class with me at QSDS many years ago. She was warm, composed, quick to laugh, yet determined to apply what she learned to composition with expert crafts(w0)manship. And clearly, in the intervening time and with the same deep integrity, she has learned to bend shape and line into extraordinary, masterful compositions. I’m proud to know her, and to have this opportunity to rave about her art quilts!

Volcano Season!

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

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The Slow Stitching Movement: So. Not. Me.

This is me: Scraps on the floor after another obligatory project is due and done. Restless rumblings. Silk, rayon, and frenetic free motion stitchery building, colliding, bursting, erupting—all in the course of one intense evening—just don’t ask me how I define “evening.” Ideas surge and flare, drowning out the inner mom trying to guilt me into cleaning up before starting something new, the urges to check the computer screen one more time, the calls from the hubby to come to bed. This is how I do my best work, imho. If only this brief season of volcanic creative activity would strike more often than once in a blue moon!

But opportunity may strike for you! Here’s how:

1 Day (Feb. 4) — 100 Artists (I’m one of ’em!) — 100 Patrons (You could be one!) — $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.  My 8″ x 10″ art quilt, which I call, “Volcano Season,”  is one of the amazing 100 art quilts that could be yours. Mark your calendar: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at 10 a.m. Central. The first 100 people to contact Virginia Spiegel at her website, VirginiaSpiegel.com will be given a link to donate $100 by credit card directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. Somebody gets my piece. But oh, you gotta check out the talented quilt artists–lots of big names–who are also among the 100 contributing artists. This site shows you a bunch: http://www.pinterest.com/…/the-100-fundraiser-to-fight-can…/ You’d contribute to the ACS anyway, right? Be on time, and the bonus is gonna be bodacious in your abode.

What about you? Do your brainstorms erupt suddenly? Or build quietly over time?

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Opposing Forces = Art

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Looking for a zen-like, meditative haven? How about an intense and heady tour of some of the most riveting and revolutionary sculpture ever created? I found both experiences at the Isamu Noguchi Museum in Queens, NY.  You will, too.

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Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors.

I am struck by all the opposing forces in his life, which found expression in his work:

  • His mother was a Scottish-American writer; his father was a Japanese poet.
  • Noguchi spent most of his life and had studios in both Japan and New York.
  • That East-West tug on his identity made him fully comfortable in neither place.
  • He was inspired by the lyricism of nature, and the boldness of Brancusi’s reductive, powerful forms.
  •  Noguchi created huge stone monoliths and delicate paper lampshades, mass-produced furniture and fine art, public gardens and theatrical set designs.
  • He said,”The best is that which is most spontaneous or seemingly so.” He also said, “Brancusi made me realize that what I had learned previously – the quick ways of doing things – was all wrong. It is a search you have to enter – into yourself.”

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In my art-making, I am constantly struggling with opposites:

  • I want to produce work that is both subtle and bold.
  • I covet simplicity but I want to convey complex ideas.
  • I strive for the sophistication of abstraction but always seem to end up with pictures–still life, landscape, recognizable figures.
  • I admire the purposefulness of working in a series, yet I flit — from one sort of style, group of materials, and type of end product to another.
  • I know I should put in the time, but I am, at heart, a quick-and-dirty worker.
  • I seek popular success for my books and patterns and presentations and workshops, but I think it’d be awesome to be accepted into the lofty echelons of the serious fiber art world.

My sewing room, aka my studio, reflects the dualities. I have two sets of projects calling to me:

Baby banners, pillows, and Skinny quilts/table runners for gifting and patterning for my recently launched EllyLdesign line on Craftsy and Etsy (another dichotomy, as I haven’t committed to just one quite yet).

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Psst–You can check out my Craftsy Shop or my Etsy Shop.  I’m proud to say that the instructions are 100% reliable and user-friendly and full of how-to photos –just like my books. Let me know, in the comment box below, what you think!

 

 

 

OK, the commercial message is over, so let me switch over to the other side of my brain. That is focused on the constantly evolving arrangements on my design wall.  Here are a few of the iterations. Once again, I welcome your comments: Which one appeals most? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6?

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I definitely dig Noguchi’s aesthetic. He was lucky to have good critics and great supporters — he hung out with Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and a lot of other abstract expressionists. He found ways to nourish and bridge the different aspects of his identity and to address many different interests, putting the tensions of opposing forces to work in his favor. 

Me, I often feel like Dr. DooLittle’s pushmi-pullyu, that crazy, two-headed unicorn gazelle, trying to go in two opposing directions. Still, I’ll get there, wherever there is, somehow, sometime! Thank YOU for the criticism and the support. Heck, thanks for reading this!

 

Art = Play

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

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      The Contemporary Arts Center –a highlight of a long weekend in Cincinnati, was as fun for my almost 4-year old great nephew as it was for his mom, my DH, and me.  An ultra-colorful and creative current exhibit is titled, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? Painting, Parody & Disguise.” Defining the Parody part, curator Michael Stillion mentions, “Taking serious art not so serious and making it hilariously serious.” With that insanely in mind, Zachary Herrmann describes his installation, with its special appeal for us young and old viewers, using other opposing concepts, so that “cultural cues, symbols, and sensual stimulation…project into a more loosely structured space where fictions about beauty and repulsion, violence and humor, mortality, transparency, and psychology are at play.”

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Upstairs at CAC is the UnMuseum. There, Casey Millard’s character, Shark Girl, is not having a good day. She hides behind a shark head, because that is the animal she feels like. What animal do you feel like? I am a clingy Labrador retriever, Marcie is a kangaroo mother, and Norman is a curious little monkey.

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Ryan Mulligan created the most beautiful, free-play putt-putt course–no clubs; you use your feet to guide balls into holes…or send them down the clever chutes…or maybe you simply roll around in the balls like a little Ikea ballroom. It’s called The Dinosaur Says Moo.

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I think I’m ready to be more playful with my quilting…how about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part II

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

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Hurray! Art Quilt Elements (AQE) 2014 opened this weekend at the Wayne Center for the Arts, just west of Philadelphia. This biennial juried show of 43 works–chosen from hundreds of entries–commands the well-deserved respect of the quilt world, and SHOULD command the respect of the comtemporary art world. Let me share my snaps, which in no way represent the grandeur, the texture, the tactile delight. Note that I’ve linked each artist’s name with her website–go and learn more if you have the time. Above, my picture of the Best in Show, Zeitgeist (fondly nicknamed Grumpy Cat), by Kristin LaFlamme. I think it’s got a real pop art meets 70s vibe meets anime, with a bit of Missoni stuck in. About 7 feet high, so it commands the space. Click on Kristin’s name above, and check out the personal musings, including her response to winning Best in Show, plus her thoughts on the Snyderman Works show which I reviewed in my last blog post.

On to other highlights of the show. There are MANY, and I don’t want to test your patience, and will also limit this show ‘n tell to those works of artists  who were present and granted me permission to share. Again, let me urge you to click on the link of anyone whose work resonates with you, and get to know these amazing and innovative talents a little better.

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Marianne Burr explains her lavish use of hand-stitching and layering, as evidenced so richly in “Eleven 3 Thirteen,” above.

Below, Cynthia L. Vogt, “Otaru Winter” is elegance incarnate, with an Asian accent. Silk log cabin blocks set off the lines that represent Japanese rooftops peeking through in the snow.

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Quite possibly the largest piece in the show: Elizabeth Brandt‘s Random Thoughts,” 130″ x 81″. Part of her Karma series, and for me, the karma is abstract expressionist art that rivals any work at MOMA. BTW, her improvisational process is followed by lots of free motion stitching —  on her regular sewing machine. Did I mention the dimensions–130″ x 81″? Rolled into the harp of a regular machine?!?

I took a day off to bask in the community of my creative betters, having signed up for a Studio Art Quilts Association (SAQA) symposium. Fascinating to see how quilt artists work fiber into their lives, peering by way of PowerPoint into a few studios to understand how they live and work. It was such a nurturing environment of artists who share the results of their struggles, experiments, and relentless journeys from perceived failure to success. I am absolutely in awe of those who make it their business to make art.

Joy, joy, lucky me, I got to sit at a table of uncommon women, all whose work has been celebrated in major shows:

  • Dianne Koppisch Hricko, the mistress of transparency
  • Amy Orr , the high priestess of used credit cards and other post-consumer ephemera (see my post about FiberPhiladelphia 2012–which Amy directed, and specifically my visual rave of her House of Cards)
  • Katherine Knauer, whose art quilt, “Fracked,” went deep to make a powerful environmental statement
  • And the tres charmante Benedicte Caneuill — her piece in the show, “Jungle Fever,” had me begging her to teach a workshop where I, too might drag combs, rubber styluses, and trowels over wet painted cloth, then cut it up, trade with other students, and compose away. She is waaayyy too humble.

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AQE and SAQA events fill my head with inspiration and aspiration. Why am I blogging….and cooking and cleaning and catering to loved ones and doing volunteer work and…..when I could be playing with cloth? How do you set aside the mainstays of living for art as a pastime, and find the time to create? How do you lose the guilt to quilt?

And who am I to kvetch, when I get to see such glorious creations up close and personal, and meet the unique talents behind them?!

Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part I

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Hold onto your soft, cushiony seats, folks. Over the next  month, Philly is a contemporary quilt-lover’s paradise, but if you cannot get here, I’ll guide your armchair-travels via this blog post and the next one.

Here, I’ll share three of my faves from the Fiber Biennale, now showing at the Snyderman Works in Philly. Think fiber is a  field for females? Think again. These pieces are all by men, and each is a legend in his own time.

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I’ve never seen a John McQueen that wasn’t a shapely vessel. But this sculptor/basketmaker bar none has created a comparatively flat piece from poplar, pine, and birch bark. For me,  I’m reminded of a contemporary applique quilt…just not soft. “After Dark Comes Calling,” 2011, 36″ x 42″

 

 

 

Warren Selig, professor in the Fibers/Mixed Media program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia–who calls Rockland, Maine home– insists on redefining textiles.  Just as quilting stitches produce a play of light and shadow, so do the stainless, intersecting rods with clear acrylic spheres that extend 5″ from the wall. Titled “Shadow Field/Crystal Path,” it extends to 83″. Gallery co-owner Ruth Snyderman stands alongside for a sense of scale.

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Finally, no show, no collection of top-tier quilted art could be without a piece from Michael James. Professor in Textiles at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, James gives a nod to the traditions of cloth, piecing, and quilting stitches. Yet he soars by using digital textile printing to play with pattern in ways that reference dreams and memories. What a calm feeling washes over me as I study “Lands End: Quiet Hour,” 2014, approx. 51″ x 54″. Full view and detail:

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Neither my photos, nor the greatest, most professional photography can come close to seeing these pieces “in the cloth”…er, or steel, or bark. Go to snyderman-works.com for more info. I must caution you, seeing only makes you want to touch, and you can’t touch–unless you buy. And these masterworks will cost a pretty penny. And why not? For all their humble materials, these pieces, and dozens of others in this extraordinary show that is always two years in the planning, represent the best contemporary art. The fact that it’s categorized as fiber art doesn’t make it less worthy of our esteem as any of the fine arts. In fact, for me, it holds a much greater interest. This show will challenge you to question what is fiber? What is art? And leads to that perennial discussion (and my next blog post) of what is a quilt? Man, oh man, oh man, we’re having fun in Philly.