quilt (R)evolution exhibit at the Dairy Barn (by Kathleen Loomis)

Just home from Athens OH where I visited the Dairy Barn for its current show, an exciting collection of work from most of the people who have served as Quilt National jurors over the 35 years of that exhibit.  It was special because the participants were asked to send three pieces: one from their earliest work, one of their work at the time they were jurors, and one of their current work. And most of them actually sent exactly what was requested!

The too-clever title of the show, “quilt (R)evolution” is silly but accurate, because the quilts do clearly mark the evolution of the quilts-as-art genre, and it was quite a change from the status quo.  Several of the oldest pieces are only a step or two away from traditional — and Ann Johnston’s 1979 quilt could have easily been made in 1879.

I’ve been obsessively following Quilt Nationals via catalog since 1983 and in person for at least 20 years (can’t remember exactly which one I first attended) so it’s not a surprise to me that quilts-as-art started so close to its traditional roots and took a few years to escape the conventions.  But it’s fun to be reminded of how the famous names we’re all familiar with started out, and how they got going in their own directions.

For instance, Joan Schulze started by making a big quilt that was the California winner in the big Good Housekeeping Quilts of America competition in 1976 — I remember that, even though I wasn’t much of a quilter at the time.  After it was photographed for the book (I think I have the book, too) her quilt and others were destroyed in a warehouse fire but after a long period of grieving she decided to remake it.  The design was original, with a batiked landscape in the center, but its wide border is composed of the traditional Road to California blocks (she did shock the viewers by making them in different colors to extend the landscape — blue for the sky, brown for the earth).

Joan Schulze, California II, 1979

Subsequently Schulze developed her signature style of using images appropriated from the media in collage-like phototransferred and screenprinted compositions that remind me of Robert Rauschenberg.

Nancy Crow started with huge symmetrical quilts that were meticulously planned and intricately pieced from templates using commercial prints.  Subsequently she found that improvisationally free-cutting shapes from hand-dyed fabrics and building her compositions gradually on the wall was a more satisfying approach.

on the catalog cover:  Nancy Crow, March Study, 1979

Katie Pasquini Masopust’s early quilt was a daring pentagon but executed in impeccably traditional craft from teeny calico prints.  Subsequently she started incorporating easel-painted canvas into her quilt constructions.

Katie Pasquini Masopust, Heavens Reach, 1981

Other jurors went in different directions.  Michael James, after years of strip-pieced curves, embraced digital photography cranked out on a huge-format printer.  Yvonne Porcella started by making functional kimonos, then went flat (but kept her signature palette, brights with black-and-white).  Jan Myers-Newbury started by hand-dying solid gradations, then discovered arashi shibori and never looked back.

Practically all of the early pieces were hand-quilted, but as the years progress most of them switched to the machine.  Practically all the early ones were carefully pieced or appliqued with no raw edges, no messy craftsmanship of any kind, but as the years progress we see fusing, raw-edge applique, phototransfer, non-cloth materials and any number of experimental techniques emerge (for instance, Tim Harding’s latest work is “quilted” with staples).

For those of us who have been tuned in to the quilts-as-art movement for a long time, the show is a great walk down memory lane.  Fortunately all the pieces in the show still look fine (although Ann Johnston’s, used on the bed for decades, has faded dramatically into the muted colors of vintage quilts).  For those of us who aren’t that familiar with the olden days of our little niche of the art world, the show will be an eye-opener: how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Unfortunately the catalog doesn’t reproduce the artist notes that appear on the walls of the Dairy Barn.  So, for instance, readers will probably think that Wendy Huhn’s extravaganza of female fairies perched on irons is about the drudgery of housework, when it’s really about a lethal disease that causes too much iron to build up in one’s blood vessels and joints.  (I know how easy it is to leap to that conclusion, because I eavesdropped on two young guys explaining to one another quite solemnly how women’s work is never done, etc, before one of them thought to read the sign.)

The show remains up at the Dairy Barn through November 22 — see it if you can!

 

 

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I’m cross-posting this to my personal blog, artwithaneedle.blogspot.com

 

An exquisite extra: Endpapers (by Olga Norris)

There are many aspects of books which excite me. Those who follow my blog will know that I am a fan of bookmarks, and another optional extra which delights me is the use of endpapers. In my publishing days I would have great pleasure in choosing and designing endpapers – if the budget allowed.
endpaper collectionTraditionally endpapers were designs rather like commercial fabric patterns, and I have a collection of small books on fabric designs which have appropriate endpapers. There are even a couple of books on endpaper paper designs in the collection.
Children’s books, books on art and craft subjects, and books that benefit from a map larger than individual page size are all ideal for endpapers.
Katrina-and-Jan-endpapersLike this one from here.
danced-in-underpants-2008And this one from here. And here are some more endpapers of children’s books.
weird endpaperI have not been able to track down which book has these endpapers by Rex Whistler, but I can imagine the delight of picking up the book and turning it round and round.
28 endpaper
29 endpaper
I always liked to have a different endpaper in the front from the back, rather like these by the artist Norman Thelwell for an Eagle Annual (at Christmas every year the Eagle comic would publish a book with all the features of the comic therein.)
endpapers_lgGraphic novels and similar publications, even in paperback can be found with endpapers.
But in many ways the most delightful use of endpapers I find is with novels, or other writing which does not contain illustrations. The Persephone Press publishes books with elegant plain grey covers, which burst to life as soon as opened with glorious endpapers and matching bookmarks.
endpapersImage from here

More delicious than ice cream!

Carrying the story of his ancestors to the canvas, by Kristin McNamara Freeman

In 1991 I went to a gallery show in Red Lodge, Montana, and there I “met” an artist whose work called out to me from the walls of the Merida Gallery. Each piece held me  with the strong images presented and the language of Native people illustrated in the techniques of a fine contemporary artist. Kevin Red Star called out to me through the images presented at that show. Each year through 1996 I returned to see his work at this gallery and in 1997 I visited the Red Star Gallery in Roberts, Montana, for a benefit show and sale for the Boys and Girls Clubs. In 1994 and 95 I was able to see his work at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, a marvelous venue for the exhibition of his paintings. My budget allowed only for me to own some signed posters of his work.

A step back in time to Kevin’s birth in 1943 and his early life in Lodge Grass on the Crow Reservation is where we can learn how Kevin’s creative adeptness was nurtured by his family and teachers. His mother designed and created in applique pieces of regalia for tribal dancers and blankets for people in the tribe. His father, a musician,  would bring Kevin prints of the work of Charlie Russell and he would make copies of those watercolors and learned about creating images of the spaces where a person dwells, for that is what C.M. Russell sketched and painted. There is a wonderful series of videos called from the spirit with Kevin telling his story at www.kevinredstar.com/vodeos, a series well worth taking the time to view. There are some good pieces of information on succeeding in making and selling art; his daily commitment to showing up, creating and getting lost in his work is a large portion of why he has been so successful. His respect for the ownership of a symbol or design he might want to include in a work is expressed in one of his recordings, an interview from The Backroads of Montana on PBS; although he is a Crow, he would never use an image unless the family who has this image on their regalia or other family possessions gave their permission to him for the use.

Inspiration for Kevin’s work comes from looking around the land where he lives and works, taking walks for inspiration and seeing what shapes and forms in the landscape speak to him.He never grows tired of taking in the energy of the land of his people, nor looking closely at the horses, buffalo and the Crow people as he includes them in the work he creates.

In his video “painting the journey” found at the above link, Keven describes his process in creating a large piece for installation at a public building. He describes how he uses the tipi poles and the poles in the travois (used for carrying large loads behind horses) to direct the eyes of the viewer from the historical Native images to the newly constructed building in the painting. Buffalo were important images and yet they were too dominant in the design until he painted them as the clouds in white. Lesson after lesson about design decisions is given by Kevin in this recorded piece.

Kevin’s education at Institute for American Indian Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico, was a life changing opportunity for him. Here he learned not simply technique but how an artist works and presents themselves to the world. From there he went to the Art Institute in San Francisco for more study and growth as an artist. Kevin continued to be a part of the community of working artists as he shared critique session with other artists, presented work in galleries and shows and settled in Sante Fe for several years and still maintains homes in both Montana and New Mexico.

There is a fine article in the “Santa Fe New Mexican”. August 17, 2014, written by Daniel Gibson, author of the newly released book on Kevin Red Star. There is a wonderful photo with the article that captures the heart centered joy that he expresses as he talks to you. You may read the article at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/magazines/indian_market_2014/kevin-red-starr-pushing-into-unknown-territory/article_9aec8c64-23c4

The “Big Sky Journal” has another article penned by the author of the book on Kevin Red Star, Daniel Gibson. Here is a photo of the cover of the magazine

Big Sky Journal Arts 2014  Painting featured in Big Sky Journal article

Big Medicine

Keven’s work is represented at the Smithsonian, The Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the Whitney Museum of Western Art, eSpace in Paris and other galleries and museums in Europe and the US.

Kevin will be speaking at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart Germany on October 6th, 2014. He will present the story of his childhood on the Crow Indian Reservation and his 50 years of making art. He will then be at the Book Faire in Frankfurt, Germany October 8-9.

In March 19-21, 2015 he will once again be at the benefit auction and sale for the Charlie Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. In Paris, France he will have an exhibition entitles, “Shields, Drums and Masks” at Gallery Orenda, 54 rue de Ver Neuil.

Kevin Red Star

this photo of Kevin has appeared in magazines and newspapers and truly represents the gentle, sensitive and available nature of the man I have met and spoken with on several occasions.

one example of Kevin’s use of the traditional tipi of the Crow as a design element in his paintings. You can visit his Facebook page and see many more of his paintings, and also visit his website to read more of his story and see the work he currently has for sale. kevinredstar.com

Kevin Red Star is a contemporary painter, a member of the Crow Tribe and a man with a fine, gentle and caring demeanor. His skill as an artist reaches out to people from all walks of life and in his work it is my belief that folks are able to see his story and that of the Crow Nation.

Artist twins who meld traditions (by Margaret Cooter)

The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, have pioneered a new development of the traditional Indian miniature in modern art. Their work addresses important areas of critical debate, challenging stereotypes of heritage and identity.

The twins, who grew in in the United Kingdom, use the language of Indian and Persian miniature painting to depict the contemporary world. Their 2010 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London,  had a room of family scenes and another of the complex world outside the home. It’s intriguing to see how social commentary and political satire fit into the modern into the classical framework, for instance this teenager’s bedroom, rendered in the Indian miniature tradition, with a strong narrative, symbolic content, and eye for detail -

I particularly liked this idol-worshipper, her traditional shape in modern garments -

Apart from wit and skill, the work requires tenacity – it takes four hours to finish a stamp-sized section of the paintings, and the works on show were up to a metre high. The twins’ work is identical to the untrained eye, and in real life they dress alike to the last detail. In this podcast they talk about the concept of being “women artists”.

“1984” shows the notorious storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar – read more about the painting, and see a larger version, here.

One aspect of the artists’ commentary is the blindfolded reporters … but they are very hard to find in the online version.

In another mix of traditions, they received MBEs in 2011, and posed with the Queen’s Beefeaters -

singh-twins

 

Meaningful? Morbid? … or simply a mixed bag to be sorted each on its own merit? (by Olga Norris)

Rabbits’ Village School, Circa 1888
Walter Potter: Rabbits’ Village School
It was popular during the 19th century, and gradually becoming a minority curiosity during the 20th, but then suddenly there has been a revival of the art of taxidermy – or a growth in the use of taxidermy in art. In the 19th century the amateur Walter Potter made sentimental tableaux which can excite responses through the vowels from ah to ugh. (Image above, more images and an article here)
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst: Away from the flock (from here)
Somehow not really seen as taxidermy (I don’t know the technical details of taxidermy as opposed to – or in addition to preservation in formaldehyde) the conceptual art of Damien Hirst burst onto the scene with a shark, halved cows, sheep, …. And now he is certainly not alone. A few years ago I saw and was intrigued by the work of Claire Morgan, which was when I started thinking about the use of taxidermy in sculpture.
claire-morgan-fantastic-mr-fox
claire-morgan-fantastic-mr-fox1
Claire Morgan: Fantastic Mr Fox (from here)
This was followed by watching a BBC programme about Polly Morgan in the series What do artists do all day? You can watch here and here. There seem to be so many artists now working with taxidermy as part of their sculpture – there are links here and here to some of them.
I find that my initial negative reaction to most of this art gets in the way of my thinking about it. It has nothing to do with guts and feathers and fur, but somehow it feels disrespectful to the beasts if the quality of the work draws attention to the taxidermy rather than to the idea being explored in the piece. I thought of Hirst’s work as art first and considered the technique of presentation seriously only when I read that the shark had to be replaced because it was rotting. It’s the worth of the artistic expression which engages me rather than the particularities of technique in this case. I found that Claire Morgan’s work also engaged me, but perhaps that is because I saw and walked round it, observing, thinking, feeling – whereas the other work is simply represented in photographs and therefore not sufficient to make a considered enough judgement.
Bulldog
Shauna Richardson: Bulldog (from here)
And then I found out about the ‘crochetdermy’ of Shauna Richardson. She, with one tool, overwhelmingly one material, and lots of time achieves remarkable results. Here and here are more links about the crochet work. It certainly is extraordinary craft, as was shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition The Power of Making, but is it art? I certainly do not think it’s any less worthy of consideration simply because she does not use the body of the original beast. Like all work, I reckon that each individual piece should be weighed on its own merits, and not lumped in with however the technique of its making is considered at any point in time.
I’m curious to know what you think.

Tucked away in a small Montana town……by Kristin McNamara Freeman

Embroidery by Marjory Hiltner 10265302_10152314257021676_8431305616118869630_oThis spring when I received a newsletter from the Danforth Gallery in Livingston, Montana, a surprise discovery of an artist working in fabric appeared on the pages. As I went looking for more information about the woman who created the work of fiber art pictured above, it became clear to me that somehow in the small population state of Montana a fiber artist, like me, seems to imagine that we know of all the working textile artists in the state. It was my pleasure to discover that Maggy Rozycki Hiltner lives in the small town of Red Lodge which is south of Interstate 90 and is often reached as the terminus of a drive over the Beartooth Hiway that begins at Cooke City near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park; a place I could visit on a day trip.

In this small rural and somewhat isolated town Maggy creates her fiber pieces using images cut from pieces of vintage embroidery or images she has embroidered by  using patterns from the 20’s, 30′, 40’s and 50’s. These embroidery patterns were often found on the pages of women’s magazines such as”Women’s Home Companion”, “Needlecraft”, “Peterson’s” or “Ladies Home Journal” to name a few of the resources you can still find on Etsy or Ebay today. Back in my younger years a trip to the local “five and dime” store would be the resource for books of design transfers which could be ironed on to fabric or there was always a supply of stamped kitchen towels and pillow cases that could be purchased. The thread most often used was a six strand cotton embroidery floss. Sometimes today you can find a collection of embroidered and/or appliqued household pieces at thrift stores and garage sales. If the stitching needs some repairing the same cotton floss used 50 years ago is still sold and can be used to make some repairs, if desired. It is these used, older pieces of embroidery that Maggie finds and uses to create her artwork today.

In a wonderful interview on the blog:

http://www.mrxstitch.com/future-heirlooms/.  the  interviewer gives a wonderful description of how the artist’s work impacted the author.

“I do not remember when I first came across the work of today’s artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner but I do know that I immediately enjoyed it. She uses nostalgic figures and imagery to make some playful but poignant remarks about childhood, gender, expectations, friendships, sex, and love. Her technique is a unique blend of collage with found materials, hand embroidery, machine stitch, and applique. Her humor is clever and at times biting. Her work is fabulous.” The article also includes many photos of her artwork.
 
Maggie graduated from Syracuse University in 1997, was Studio Assistant in fibers and textile design at Arrowmont School  of Arts and Crafts in 1998. and has had her work shown across the country since then in solo, group and invitational shows. She has an extensive list of publications where her work has been included in photos and text. A busy, talented woman creating textile art in her studio in this small rural town of Red Lodge, Montana.
 
A visit to her web site.. .www.maggyrhiltner.com/index.html  will have you reading and exploring the heart and art of this artist. Here, from her website in a small vignette from one of her pieces. She currently, through September 1st, has work showing at the Dairy Barn in Athens, OH, and will have work in the following shows (from her website):

Quilt Visions Biennial 2014
October 3, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Visions Arts Museum
San Diego, CA
visit the Visions Arts Museum website
see work to be included in the exhibition

Solo Exhibition
April 24 to August 16, 2015
Dr. Ruth Tam Lim Project Room
Mesa Arts Center
Mesa, AZ
visit the Mesa Arts Center website

Focus: Fiber 2014
September 26, 2014 to January 18, 2015
Erie Art Museum
Erie, PA
visit the Erie Art Museum website

A Common Thread: Stitching and Embroidery
March 7 to July 5, 2015
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
San Jose, CA
visit the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles website

If you will be near one of the shows her work is sure to delight the exploring, playful artist within each of us. For some, it will be the remembering of the  images she uses from our days as a child or young adult, or even those times when we have picked up and been tempted to buy a piece or two of embroidered household linens.

Other artists have included pieces of vintage embroidery in their work, Sue Reno, http://www.suereno.com/ showed pieces of her work incorporating vintage linens in a recent article for Quilting Arts and Deb Lacativa uses vintage linens for the cloth she dyes for sale and in the work she creates http://lacativa.com/ and http://morewgalo.blogspot.com/ . 

What pure delight to discover an unknown to me textile artist living in a small Montana town. An artist whose work reaches from coast to coast here in the USA and brings a new vision to those who see her work.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why fabric? (by Margaret Cooter)

Why quilts – rather than paintings … do you sometimes wonder? Whenever SAQA’s Art Quilt News pops into my inbox (you can subscribe here, it’s free) I ponder this question – the quilts shown in it are each part of an exhibition somewhere. Of course, seeing the work on screen is nothing like seeing it for real, whether its a quilt or painting or other medium … so the quality of the photography for what we see on screen is going to make a difference, especially for quilts, with the texture of the quilting often so very important in the design concept.

This week, thumbs up for fabric in this quilt, Yellow Pod, by Colleen Ansbaugh -

The fabric is monoprinted, which at first made me think – “why not on paper” – but here the quilting adds that necessary something to complement and enhance the lines and colours of the print.

K Velis Turan’s “Please Stand By” is screenprinted, and the reverse applique will make some elements pop, which again seems to enhance the design … and wouldn’t work as well in paint or print on paper. The visible quilting is a graphic element in itself (closeup is here) -

Nancy Crow‘s “Double Mexican Wedding Rings IV” (1988-90) could be a zingy print on paper, but this piece is “so quilty” because it comes right out of the quilt tradition – the blocks need to be pieced, not painted … fabrics, not hues, need to be used.

Would you say much the same about this next quilt? Does it need fabric and stitch to bring the design to life, or would it work equally well in paint, print, or collage?

Alicia Merrett, Blue Harbour

Quilted sea … that makes sense to me – the sea itself has a visible texture … but when it comes to quilted skies, what do you think – does the quilting evoke the feel of the wind or enhance the look of the clouds? Or are skies best left “just” painted?

Photorealism on fabric is another stumbling block for me – it makes me ask “why?”  Perhaps “because I thought it would be interesting” is good enough an answer?

It seems to me that sometimes the use of fabric is either an indulgence, or else a power struggle: the materials need to be vanquished, they need to be bent to the will of the maker.

There’s a further consideration, and I rather hesitate to mention it, but here goes….  What do you think – could it be that some people using fabric because they haven’t developed skills in other media?


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