Thursday, June 30, 2016

SDA show 7 -- hand stitching

Have I saved the best for last?  I love hand stitching, and am always happy to see plenty of it in a fiber art show.

Susan Moss, Yes It's Been a Long Time (details below)

The warm background tones were put on with dye and fabric paint; the line drawings are stitched.  I love the jittery line of the stitching, making wonky pitcher and glasses.  I love the doodles at right and left, mystery marks that we don't understand, and the lettering at center that requires decipherment.  Not sure why the artist has let the text disintegrate; perhaps the speaker doesn't really want to share that sangria...

Diane Siebels, Untitled (detail below)

Just when I got to be able to recognize a Siebels quilt from the other side of the room (I've seen several of her huge profile heads in various shows over the last few years) she pulls a new technique out of the hat.  This is a whole cloth quilt, the design entirely applied with long hand stitches in heavier cotton and wool -- yes, even the roses, thorns and owl on the outer panels.  Hard to say if I like it better up close than from farther away; the imagery is subtle from afar and exciting in close-up.

Roz Ritter, The Great Unknown (detail below)

This is a picture of the artist in sixth grade, printed on several sheets of kozo paper and hand stitched.  I like the contrast between the blurry photo and the crisp stitching, outlining the plaid of her dress.  I'm not so sure about the overall presentation; is it a bit too casual, raggedy at the edges and simply pinned to the wall?  Do those hanging threads hang a bit too long, drawing the eye out of the scene and down to the floor?  Oh well, just look at the detail shot and fall in love.

Amy Meissner, Inheritance (detail below)

Meissner is well known for working with old textiles; here she started with an unfinished needlepoint panel and extended it into a large quilt with a timeless motto.  As a lover of repurposing beat-up and abandoned textiles myself, I thrill to this piece.

I love the fact that the original stitcher apparently ran out of beige yarn and finished up the southwest corner in pink, and that the canvas got all rhomboid with stitching; I love the manufacturer's ID stamped on the bottom of the canvas (can you see it? "Hiawatha Heirloom Super Canvas").  I like the way the new stitching blends with, yet contrasts with, the original.

I'm a little confused about the cranky cri de coeur; is she addressing the original stitcher who left this pathetic UFO for somebody else to rescue?  Or is she addressing her husband and kids or sloppy officemates?  Despite the ambiguity, or perhaps because of it, maybe this is my favorite piece in the whole show.  

The show, sponsored by the Surface Design Association, continues at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn NY through August 21.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

SDA show 6 -- machine stitching

After the interruption of telling you about the SAQA show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, I'm resuming my longer reports on the SDA show at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn NY, a show that I found much more interesting because of the wider variety of subjects and techniques.  Today I'll talk about machine stitching used as the main method of creating pattern and design.

Claire Jones, Whole Surface: Tranquil 1

Well, I'll admit it, maybe I'm biased toward this work because it's so similar to work that I have been experimenting with myself.  The artist has heavily machine stitched, to the point that the underlying canvas support is no longer visible.

She points out in her artist statement that she likes the distortion of the flat canvas and the fact that the stitching allows the form to be self-supporting, and I would make both these points in regard to my own stitched sculptures.  I like the biomorphic form in this piece and wonder what she has made in subsequent work in this series.

Shea Wilkinson, Data Set (detail below)

Here's another piece that gives me deja vu to my own work: an unfolded geometric solid that makes an interesting projection of a world map.  Although the different colors of the stitching represent different data variables, we're not told what they mean.  (Why do you suppose Europe has no warm colors whatsoever?  And poor UK doesn't even have any green or blue -- maybe it's because of Brexit.)

I like the way the work spreads out on the wall and yet retains a 3-D character; I like how Antarctica is perfectly centered in its own pentagon.

Bob Mosier, Inner City Block; a variation (detail below)

This large hanging is made entirely of machine stitching, and in a masterpiece of overachievement, it uses black, white and 11 values of gray thread to give subtle shading on the ziggurats.  The shading isn't totally realistic -- you don't see deep shadow on both sides of a cube -- so it gives a rounded effect, as if the stones have worn away under centuries of footsteps.  This took a LOT of stitching and a LOT of control.

Tomorrow I'll show you hand stitching.  The SDA show continues at the Schweinfurth through August 21.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Quilts I liked in Indianapolis

I wrote on Saturday that I was disappointed in the presentation of the SAQA show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  I want to clarify that I'm not critical of SAQA; the presentation and signage at the exhibit seems to have been the sole responsibility of the museum, not the show organizers.

While there wasn't a great deal of variety in the pieces on display -- because the requirement that everything be inspired by the century-old Marie Webster quilts, which were all quite similar in subject and feeling -- a couple of them were a bit different and worth a closer look.

Emily Bogard, Sunflowers & Spider Webs (detail below)

I liked this quilt for its use of many different materials and trims, and for the intricate machine and hand stitching that gave it tremendous texture.  The original Marie sunflower quilt that inspired several of the SAQA artists was quilted with spiderwebs, and Bogard's piece certainly took the web theme the farthest!

Judy Ireland, Remembering Justin (detail below)

Embroidered onto a single layer of translucent silk organdy, these deconstructed dogwood blocks feature hand stitching that is almost as visible on the back side as on the front.  Beads make a subtle focal point at the center of the blossoms.

Barbara Schneider, Anemone Dance, var. 1 (detail below)

Schneider used flowers and grasses to make a black-and-white monoprint, scanned the image and manipulated it to create the symmetrical image, then had it printed out for a whole-cloth quilt.  I loved the monochrome color palette, a pleasant contrast to the room full of bright flowers, and the graphic geometric patterns of the flower stems.  It was the most visually sophisticated piece in the show.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Disappointed in Indianapolis

The SAQA-sponsored exhibit of quilts inspired by Marie Webster opened on Thursday, and I am sorry to report that I'm disappointed.  Not so much in the quilts, which were all attractive and nicely made, but in the presentation.

First, the premise: the Indianapolis Museum of Art owns a large collection of quilts by Marie Webster, an artist and entrepreneur who worked in the 1910s and 20s to design many applique quilts that were sold as patterns, kits or even completed tops.  They're very much of their time, or perhaps a bit ahead of their time, with clean, modern symmetrical designs on white backgrounds, mostly of stylized and elegant flowers.  SAQA artists were asked to make quilts inspired by a specific Marie design, but updated in some way(s) as a contemporary response.

Joanne Alberda, Morning Glories: A Joy Forever

Not surprisingly, most of the quilts were also flowers.  Several artists printed computer-manipulated designs onto whole-cloth quilts.  Many used raw-edge applique and thread painting; there was Tyvek and felt, beads and metallic thread.  Hardly any piecing, not much hand-stitching.  All on the small side, as called for in the rules.  Nothing in the least bit edgy, ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

Sharon Buck, Roses / American Beauty

But as you contemplate these photos, notice the terrible lighting that cast a heavy shadow over the top several inches of most of the quilts.  The small gallery used for this show has a soffit around the edge of the room, with the can lights suspended from the higher ceiling, so close to the soffit that it interrupts the beams.  I wonder how this gallery is used on other days; only the tiniest picture would hang low enough to be fully lit.

Arlene Blackburn, A Day at the Botanic Garden: Iris Study

As all of the artists were required to specify which Marie quilt was used as inspiration, the viewer might want to see the a thumbnail of the original along with the artist statement and info.  In fact, this idea was a frequent topic of conversation among the viewers I mingled with.  But when I suggested it to one of the exhibit organizers, she said that wasn't necessary because all the Marie quilts were on display upstairs and after you saw them, you would know how they influenced the quilts downstairs.

Well, to me that isn't a very good explanation.  How well can you remember each of the 25 works you saw in a different room of a museum to compare to the ones you're looking at now?  It's probably easy to remember that the five new sunflowers were inspired by the sunflower quilt upstairs, but how about a quilt showing anemones or wind turbines, also inspired by Marie's sunflower?  When you read that in the artist statements, wouldn't you like to consult a picture of the original and try to figure out what elements were carried over to the new interpretation?

And another reason: while the SAQA exhibit is free, the Marie originals upstairs require an $18 admission fee.  Some viewers might not want to pop for the admission fee, especially if they don't have a whole day to enjoy the IMA's admittedly great art.  And I thought it would have been gracious for the museum to allow the SAQA exhibitors to see the Marie exhibit for nothing, since it was the opening day and all.  Heck, they could have given us a special sticker that would allow the guards to identify and shoot us if we sneaked into the room with the Turners.

Sonia Brown Martin, Signature Daisy

I'll show you a few of the other quilts in another post.  The show continues at IMA through September 4.  (Don't be confused if you go to the museum web page to plan your visit; the show isn't listed under current or upcoming exhibits but yes, it's there, hidden away under the title "Bret Waller Gallery," without any photos.  I don't think we stand very high in the museum's estimation.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

SAQA show opens at Indianapolis Museum of Art

I'm off to Indianapolis this afternoon for the opening of the SAQA-sponsored exhibit, "Dialogues," in which artists were asked for new interpretations of the century-old applique quilts by Marie Wilson in the permanent collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  I have a piece in the exhibit, and will also be on a panel discussion as part of the opening festivities.

IMA is a big-time art museum and it's exciting to see that SAQA's focus on getting art venues for its exhibits in addition to the usual quilt shows is paying off.  I've heard wonderful things about the "Stories of Migration" exhibit at the National Textile Museum in Washington DC, and I hope the IMA show will be as well received.

I'll take notes and pictures and report back!  Meanwhile, here's my quilt from the exhibit:

Zoe and Isaac Stargazing (detail below)