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Book Review "Masters: Art Quilts"

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Masters: Art Quilts
Major Works by Leading Artists
Martha Sielman, author and curator. © 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1-60059-107-5
ISBN-10: 1-60059-107-8

Collectors of quilted textiles known as art quilts, and fellow designers and makers will all be pleased with this recently published survey of the work by 42 of the major practitioners in the art quilt field. For each artist, there are up to 12 full colour images, including some wonderful detail shots, and for some the works shown span almost twenty years. As a result, the reader is able to appreciate long term development of vision and the presence of changing influence on the life and art of each master. The second pleasing feature is the numerous quotes from artists’ personal statements, balanced by the curator’s discussion of each individual’s background, presented with just enough information to satisfy technical curiosity and allow the reader to fully focus on the makers’ visual statements.

From largely US-based beginnings in the 1970’s, innovative quilted textile art has grown internationally in the past two decades, and so it is fitting and pleasing that about 1/3 of the selected artists live outside the USA. Those chosen to appear in this volume are just some of those art quilters most recognized for long term excellence and for their influence on the modern art quilt movement. Not all choices reflect both of these criteria, I felt, with the curator occasionally straying into personal favourites, inevitable in such a project, I suppose. From within a movement with which I am long and well acquainted, I found the book includes several wonderful obvious choices, some personal favourites, a few I hadn’t known of and some notable omissions, including not one of the two or three prominent Australian art quilters who would belong in such a survey.

Through the works of the chosen quiltmakers, “Masters:Art Quilts” presents fine examples of the diversity found in the field of art quilt making today. Traditional quiltmaking techniques were mostly piecing and appliqué by hand or machine, with occasional use of stitch or pigment embellishments. In the past two decades these have been joined by various forms of applied paint and dye, plus digital image manipulation and fabric printing techniques barely thought of just a few years ago. Wide bed industrial sewing machines, computer aided design software and digital computers, air pens, air brushes have found their way into the creative hands of art quilt makers. Design inspiration has diversified tremendously, too, often presented within design formats reflecting descent from the traditions of quiltmaking. You will find here studies of line, shape, texture, pattern and colour, deeply personal spiritual and cultural issues, narratives and memory, environmental issues, and the study of nature and landscape.

It is a shame that there are only 42 artists and only one volume, but this is a fascinating survey and I recommend it to all with an interest in this field.

Available from all good book stores. RRP Au$ 34.99. Can $24.99

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