Category Archives: Exhibits

Back In Business

The Artist as Quiltmaker show, held every two years at Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) in Oberlin, Ohio, was one of many casualties of the pandemic. It was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed until this year. I drove over to see it with a friend just before the show closed and was glad I didn’t miss seeing it in person. You can view the entries online, but as with any visual show, you can’t get a sense of scale unless you stand in front of the pieces. And size does make a difference as some of the pieces are large.

Many of this year’s entries don’t fit the “three layers held together with stitching” requirement typical of quilt shows. And some don’t have 90 degree corners. In fact, a few approach sculpture. I was glad to see a broadening of the concept of a quilt, but hope such pieces don’t languish in the quilt ghetto of the art world. They might have better luck being called something else.

Some of the pieces that intrigued me follow.

“Blue Ice” Joanna Alberda 35″ x 75″

While not groundbreaking in form (it even has a binding) “Blue Ice” captures the majestic quiet of ice bound parts of our world. The artist has kept the quilting simple, but uses a few changes in thread color from black to blue effectively.

“Rosy Retrospective” Emily Bellinger 48″ x 42″

Modern quilting influence is evident in the piecing and lighthearted fabric choices, but the curved edges and trio of hanging drops are more arty. And, look ma, no four inch hanging sleeve.

“Mended Wedding Ring Quilt” Jeanne Bieri 82″ x 52″ x 8″

Materials used include “reclaimed vintage quilt and army blankets, army suture cotton dated 1953, cotton, linen, wool, silk, satin, felt, buttons.” The curved red lines are hand chain stitched embroidery. I found it an intriguing meld of old with new to reimagine the original materials.

“Plunge” Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry 68″ x 53″

The online photo so doesn’t do this work justice. It’s by a quilter renowned for working with large scale templates and pieced curves. Recently she has switched to digitally edited photos printed on cloth. From what I could see, only the outer mitered border is pieced. I’ll quote the artist here: “In 2019 my husband photographed a 135’ dive by one of the cliff divers of Acapulco at four frames per second. He combined the twelve shots of the three-second dive into one time-lapse composite. Using my digital drawing program, I added traditional Storm at Sea blocks to the corners of the digital image and designed borders that extend the colors and patterns of the photo that fade to black. The center panel, borders, and binding fabric were digitally printed and pieced. I quilted the center very heavily with matching threads to enhance the textures of the rocks.” The quilting is exquisite.

“Porcelain Vine I” Lotta Helleberg 75″ x 55″

Only one layer of cotton canvas dyed with plants and a few organza appliqued pieces are used. The subtleties of the images left by the plants are best seen in person. There is hand quilting on the appliqued parts, but a traditional quilt judge would throw this piece out of the judging.

“Joy and Pain” Toni Kersey 51″ x 41″

Pieced and quilted, but the shape and uneven edges elevate it from a typical abstractly pieced quilt. It’s almost like dress pattern pieces were used to create it.

“Alone At The Beach” Sherry Kleinman 47″ x 26″

The artist applied a digital editing filter to a photo, had it printed on a cotton/linen blend, and then hand embroidered it. I don’t know if it has more than one layer. I was intrigued with the combination of digital manipulation and hand embroidery.

“Tenuous Ties” Viviana Lombrozo 51″ x 31.5″ x 2″

Here the blue/purple ribbons come free of the quilt’s surface and curl around themselves. The red glyphs give a pop of color. While the quilting isn’t up to the standards of other entries, I enjoy the 3D effect. I guess I have some quilt police DNA after all.

I hope I’ve given you a taste of the show’s diversity. Please take a few minutes to browse all the entries. The detail photos are great for closeups.

I’ll be linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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A New Color Palette and Flowers, Sort Of

I have long maintained that flowers have little to no place in my work. I love flowers in a garden or a vase, but haven’t been drawn to them as subjects for my work. So, I was surprised that I based a piece now under construction on flowers, rhododendrons specifically. Each May I see the bold magenta floral clusters of those plants in the yards of the older houses in my neighborhood. I don’t know if they’ve gone out of fashion, but I don’t see them in newer developments. Of course, that color would give one pause and they like shade.

A mature rhodedendron

But I didn’t start my floral project with the shrub in mind. Instead, I began with a surfeit of high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint that I decided to splash on scraps of tablecloths, muslin, PFD cotton, and fabric already printed with bell pepper. Then after I noticed all the rhodies in my neighborhood I came up with a scheme to make a piece with a floral theme out of all that painted fabric cut into squares.

Not exactly a detailed sketch, but it was enough for me.

To the magenta fabric I added squares (including an old sheet) painted with green, yellow-green, and yellow; plus fabric monoprinted with Inktense colors. Once I had the squares arranged to my liking I added thin bias strips of fused fabric. I know that my inspiration shrub doesn’t have skinny leaves, but let’s pretend bindweed has clambered up on it.

The next step I plan is a few tendrils made of even skinnier strips. It’s easy to curve the bias strips as you iron them in place.

The new color palette I became enamoured of is that used by Zoe Zenghelis, a painter who pioneered an appreciation of the role of color in architectural design. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has mounted an exhibit of her paintings, which introduced me to her work. You can read a review of the exhibit below.

Now, I don’t grasp all the architectural aspects of her work, but I do love the shapes and clear, melting colors she uses. I was transported to an alternative universe through her paintings.

Dali, 2019
untitled
Tatiana’s House, 1994
A few of the works on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art

I hope to experiment with my paints to achieve similar effects. Maybe I can learn some subtlety.

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From the French Word Coller, “to Glue”

Each year the National Collage Society holds a small format members’ exhibition. Since the the exhibit of eighty-six 4 by 6 inch works was held at Summit ArtSpace in Akron, I made a point of going to it. At first it seemed out of scale to walk into a large room with one horizontal line of very small works on three walls, but you forgot that once you drew closer to the pieces. I was amazed at the detail the artists packed into such small real estate.

While almost all the works merited close examination, here are the ones that really caught my eye.

Sheer Magic by Clare Murray Adams
Rhythm and Tempo by Deborah Eater
That’s Okay, I’ll Wait Here by Terrence Fine
These Winds by Jean Hess
English Breakfast by Rachel Tirosh
Facial Decorations by Joyce Linda Sichel
Postcard From A Road Trip by Dennis Mastrangelo
Pyramid Scheme by Janet Noden
Erosion by Carol A. More
Hey Good Lookin’, What You Got Cookin’? by Maggi Miller

Speaking for myself, it’s much easier to work at small scale with paper than with fabric, unless you’re only fusing. And that’s essentially collage with fabric. Now, that’s a thought – a paper-fabric collage using Mistyfuse. I’m sure many have already tried that, but it’s a new idea to me. I certainly have plenty of paper and fabric scraps to use.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Culture on the Gulf

To go with its upscale reputation, Naples, Florida, sports an impressive art museum/performance center that houses the Naples Philharmonic and the Baker Museum. My husband chauffeured me from Fort Myers to the museum so I could soak in more southwest Florida art. Unlike the collection of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota which features walls of European Madonnas, saints, and portraits bought in quantity; the Baker Museum has a more contemporary collection with many Mexican and American artists. The work is also more scaled for display in a modern private home.

I enjoyed browsing the permanent collection as well as special exhibits, especially one called Ocean Gleaning by Pam Longobardi. The museum is small enough you won’t suffer visual fatigue, yet diverse enough you can discover gems in each room. Too often I find smaller museums feel compelled to have third rate work by big name artists like Picasso rather than first rate work by lesser known figures. The Baker Museum has a few Chihuly sculptures that aren’t his best in my opinion, but the charm of other works make up for them.

Here are some works that caught my eye. Each photo is followed by the museum’s description. Be warned, there’s lots of photos.

And that’s not all. There are two additional galleries in the performance center with interesting cyanotype prints by Noelle Mason and wall sized charcoal drawings by Gonzalo Fuenmayor.

If you’ve stayed with me to this point, I offer the sunrise art we enjoyed on our trip north.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Artistic Endeavors – Known and Unknown

Recently I spent time with an online exhibit called Known and Unknown Quilt Stories put together by the Quilt Alliance. To quote from the website:

Documentation, or the lack thereof, is at the heart of the over 30 quilts in Known and Unknown. And it’s also the heart of what the Quilt Alliance does. Without documentation, the stories behind countless quilts are lost to us. But with documentation, we can honor and remember the diverse voices and perspectives in quiltmaking.

The exhibit’s quilts range from art quilts to rescued quilts spattered with paint. For each quilt featured there’s a short interview with its maker or current owner, and links to additional resources related to the type of quilt featured. Some quilt makers put their names front and center on their work; other quilts can only be ascribed to anonymous. Still other makers can be known through the stories of their quilts’ current owners.

For example, quilter Nellie Mae Johnson put a Native American spin with braids and moccasins on the classic Sunbonnet Sue block in her quilt Little Women.

Little Women by Nellie Mae Johnson

The interview by Nellie’s granddaughter Gwen Westerman (who is a quilter) reveals the quilt was made for her high school graduation out of fabrics from her home made clothing. All Nellie’s quilts were meant to be used, and this one has the holes and lumpy batting to prove it.

There are many stories in Quilters Save Our Stories, but I gather you can add your quilt story to the project. The website has lots of tips for telling and filming your quilt’s story.

The Quilt Alliance also has a podcast called Running Stitch, now in its second season.

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Online Fiber Exhibits

The cancellation of art exhibits affects fiber shows as well. Here are a few you can enjoy online.

 

FIBER 2020

Brent Wadden: Second Life. Woven paintings: https://www.miandn.com/exhibitions/brent-wadden3?view=slider#4

Mary Ann Tipple “Annie Hall Meets Aunt Kitty”

Best of Ohio Crafts Show: http://ohiocraft.org/ocm-exhibitions/current/best-of-2020-exhibition/

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A National Treasure House

Thank goodness so many museum collections can be enjoyed on my computer. Otherwise I’d surely go stir crazy in these times. I recently discovered that the Smithsonian Institution has made its collection available digitally. That opens up almost 3 million items to view.

What did I search for first? That’s right, quilts. While there are many styles represented in the Smithsonian’s collection I was drawn to scrappy ones. Here are my favorites.

Scrap amish quilt that seems quite modern.
It’s not scrappy, but I found it an interesting variation of four patch and HSTs.
Off-center placement of the four swallows creates movement.
I like how each large block seems to hang from the one above.
Housetops quilt made with lots of little pieces.
A yoyo hexagon quilt. The pink is a bold choice.
This one is billed as Tennessee Circles.

If the Smithsonian isn’t enough for you, try some of these sites for visual delight:

Paris museums

Audubon’s Birds of America

Japanese illustrated books

Google Earth landscapes

Only good news

Historical photographs of China

Happy browsing. Please take care in these fraught times.

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Artistic Endeavors – Elias Sime

A just opened exhibit at the Akron Art Museum introduced me to the work of Elias Sime (pronounced SeeMay.) Sime is an Ethiopian artist whose media are colored wires, buttons, carpet tacks, and electronic and computer parts. His work is abstract and from a distance resembles mosaics, though some is 3D with pieces extending out 3 or 4 inches from the base.

What fascinated me about Sime’s work was how well it subsumed the materials to the art. At first I didn’t see all the motherboards and buttons, but enjoyed subtle changes in textures and colors. Too often it’s difficult to see past the component parts of assemblages and collages.

“Familiar Yet Complex 6” was one of the first works I saw. From across the room I thought mosaic.
Close up I saw all the keyboard keys and the braided colored wire. Sime and his assistants braid the wires together, coil them, and hold them in place with carpet tacks.
Detail from “Behind The Beauty” shows the subtle coloring achieved with the wire.
Detail from “In Boxes” shows part of the central “medallion” of motherboards surrounded by squares in squares.
Earlier work like “Ants and Ceramicists 11” used canvas and stitching.
Detail shows the amount of stitching involved. I gather Sime found this way of working too hard on his hands.
“While Observing” uses the different reflective values of the materials to enhance the effect.
Detail of “While Observing”

One aspect of Sime’s work not shown in the exhibit is the Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa which Sime co-founded, designed, and helped hand construct from mud and straw. The short video that accompanies the exhibit has gorgeous shots of the center.

mud brick exterior of Zoma

The exhibit I saw will be up until May 24. It will then move on to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11–September 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (October 24, 2020–February 21, 2021).

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Department of Self Promotion

I’m happy to report that my quilt “If The Shoe Fits” is now at the Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona, as part of the Art Quilts XXIV show. Unfortunately, I’m not there as well, but if you’re in the Phoenix area before January 3, 2020, stop by the gallery to see the exhibit.

My other news is that a local free weekly paper called “The Devil Strip” has done an article about me, and “Hazy Shade of Winter” is on the cover. You can read it here. I was amused to read that I do “circus” design with fabric – the perils of relying on a recording in an interview. Otherwise, the article pretty much captures my voice. (Note: I think that oopsie has been fixed.) My work will be featured on the bottom of bird cages and litter boxes around Akron.

The upshot is Christmas came early for me this year.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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How Are Show Award Winners Picked?

If you’ve ever attended an art quilt show or any art show, you may have wondered how the winners were chosen. You can get the perspective of one judge, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, who summarized her experiences as a show judge in a recent blog post.

She began with her criteria for works to consider for awards:

  • Be well executed.
  • Have a point-of-view.
  • Make the viewer feel or think or react in some way.
  • Be unique in some way.

Then, she narrowed her choices for top awards by asking herself which pieces stayed in her mind the next day. Finally, to choose the grand prize winner, she asked herself, “Which of these works shows complete mastery over this person’s craft?” and, “Which of these works do I not have any suggestions to give the artist on how to make it just a little bit better?”

Her takeaways from the process were:

  • Art is subjective (obviously).  I like seeing the hand of the artist.  Another juror might not.
  • It’s often attractive to go towards creating work that is like what everyone else is making, but standing out is often about standing alone. 
  • Titles matter.  Is your artwork about something?  Can the title add meaning to what the viewer is already taking away from the work?
  • For me, pretty is not enough.  I need story, emotion…something more substantive than pretty.

While these points may not apply to a craft oriented show, I think they work in an art show context. They also remind us that judges’ preferences vary. One judge may love lots of hand stitching and raw edges while another may prefer a more polished look. Please note that Julie fully recognizes the importance of craftsmanship, but feels that the story a piece tells and the emotions it evokes are what make it award-worthy.

I tried to apply the above criteria to choose my work to enter in future shows. I do pretty well on titles and written overviews. I think most of my work is sui generis and doesn’t follow the latest trends. I worry whether there’s a story and substance to my work, other than I liked the fabrics and colors together. I do know if my husband calls a piece pretty, I won’t enter it. As to level of craftsmanship, that’s the opinion of the judge. No one will ever gush over my fine workmanship.

Here’s an example of a piece that was juried into a national show. The juror must have liked my title, “The Language of Pink Elephants,” because there are many, many workmanship errors in the piece. That silk bias tape should have been handled better, and the bottom has waves when it’s hung. I’ve never entered it in another show, nor will I. And I will never use silk crepe bias tape again.

The Language of Pink Elephants

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