QUILT NATIONAL 2009 – A REVIEW

Hi everyone – so the exhibition is now open and will be at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio for the next 3 months until it is divided into three smaller touring groups to travel to museums and regional galleries.  Once again I was privileged to be present at the opening, always a special pleasure if you are one of the exhibitors; and I was delighted to meet fellow exhibitor from Perth Western Australia,  Ruth de Vos, and admire her finely pieced, dyed and screen printed  “Eucalyptus Spectacular”.  Margery Goodall, also  from Perth WA , showed a quartet of small quilts comprising her work “Earth Suite”,  intricately pieced abstracted landscapes which through colour and texture celebrate the harsh brown contintent of Australia.   Other Australians in the show are Pamela Fitzsimons and Glenys Mann.  Pamela’s piece, “Extinction Wrap” is a wonderful composition of sheer layers, of pieced and stitched hand dyed silk organza, suggesting decay to me – I don’t think I’d have made the habitat destruction and animal extinction connection without reading her statement, though.  Glenys Mann’s work was sombre, as befitting the title “Horizons #61:Memorial”, pondering a death as memorialised by a wreath image she observed.
 
There were some very exciting works, my personal favourites including Erin Wilson’s “Miscellany”, Kent Williams’ “Take Five” , Clare Plug’s “Antarctica Series: Out on the Barrier”, Christine Tedesco’s “Architectural Squares”, Patricia M Goffette’s “Haywire” and Bonnie Wells’ “Metaphysic”.  As usual there were several I honestly thought were not in the right venue, ie not up to the high standard of the others in terms of design or innovation, the kind of thing one can see in the breathless pages of  the ‘innovative’ sections of some art quiliting magazines and which are not new, regardless of how well composed the accompanying statement was.  No, I won’t single them out – make up your own mind  when you see the show or the catalogue.

A wide variety of technical expertise and interesting design inspirations expressed arists’ visions in this important exhibition of the quilt medium as art.  It’s not a quilt show, rather an art show in the quilted medium, something many, including self-styled quilt artists and aspirants, do not ‘get’ even yet, after 30 years of these biennials. Among the final selection were entries from a large number of countries outside the USA, reflecting Quilt National’s continued importance in the field of the art of the quilt internationally.

I have been to see many of the QN exhibitions and agree with one of this year’s jurors who expressed some disappointment that there were fewer large (ie bed-sized) quilts than ever this year, just a handful.  My own (below) at 37″x29″, 94x74cm is pretty small,  although it is not the smallest I have had on show there.  This year there seemed more small pieces than ever.

I am not sure what this trend says about the market for art quilts.  Many artists recognise that the their quilts compete directly in the market place with paintings, with which many have a common size range.  It is true that probably most collectors are not able to display large works in their offices or homes.  But I wonder whether there is not also a reluctance by the makers to invest the time and effort in the committment to a large project, the 2m-3m sized work that used to be more common in this exhibition.  I’m thinking of some stunning large works in past years by the late Sharon Heidingsfelder, Tim harding, Kyoung Ae Cho or Joan Lintault.  I think part of this has to do with the proliferation of computer aided design techniques, the ability to produce these designs quickly but only on a small scale outside a tertiary insitution studio, and the expansion of ‘surface design’ in the artform, narrowly interpreted to involve paints dyes and related technique, on the front of the quilt, thereby achieving designs rapidly and with great detail, that in the past took many painstaking hours by machine or hand stitch.

On the whole I felt the recipients of awards were worthy, they are on the website www.dairybarn.org  now, and our Aussie colleague Glenys Mann received an award for her persistence in entering repeatedly without making the cut until this time. Congratulations Glenys. There were some exhibitors who were successful years ago and appearing again at long last, and just over 50% were first time exhibitors. I think this augurs well for the future.

The catalogue is well worth reading for the interesting comments by each of the jurors, and some of the artist statements too were interesing.  But not all. My own view is that the best statement is a really good title, and  if a statement is really required it should be as brief as possible.  Clearly not everone has equal facility with words. One  or two artists made no accompanying statement, which I admire.  But the last time I did that, somehow my image was the only one left out of the exhibition catalogue, and I’ve always felt this was some petty move directly against my lack of comment. Some of the artist statements, IMHO, border on a self congratulating review, and many include technical details which again IMHO have no place in an artist statement.  As usual several are almost imcomprehensible statements supporting an interesting quilt design; and I think we could all benefit from wider discussion on the whole matter of statements.

However, the catalogue itself is subject of some negative comment, as this year the colour reproduction is very poor.  My own quilt comprises basically black organza over a cream background with organza strips wandering across it; in real life a bit reminiscent of a sepia photo, but on page 95 of my copy it shows as having a greenish cast.  Clare Plug (NZ)is disappointed that her work including shading from dark charcoal through greys to off white has definitely been presented as much darker and in shades of brown.  I could go on, but overall the images are dark, a bit dull, and disappointing.  If you don’t know the original this is not really bad, perhaps, but it doesn’t represent each work well.

Although this year’s collection did not feel as strong and did not excite me as much as some previous ones, I think Quilt National still holds it’s place as a premier event in the world of contemporary quilted fiber art.

9 Responses to “QUILT NATIONAL 2009 – A REVIEW”

  1. Kay Sorensen says:

    I really appreciated your report on QN.
    It was honest and informative.
    K

  2. Kristin L says:

    Thanks for the informative review. I doubt I will be able to see any of the QN work this year in person, but it is educational to hear others’ takes on it.

  3. Great and thoughtful review of the show Alison. I agree on many points. It was wonderful to meet you. I will look forward to seeing more of your work and blog updates.

  4. rayna says:

    Alison -there are always a few “head-scratchers” — but having been a juror for another national (U.S.) show, I recognize that there are almost always some compromises with a few “maybes”for one reason or another after the unanimous “yes” and “no”pieces have been selected. Sad, but true.

    I saw the book and not having seen the pieces in the cloth, so to speak, I couldn’t tell about colour. However, wretched color repro is nothing new, either. A couple of years ago, the color catalog for another national show was so bad it made the exhibitors very angry. This is partly the fault of the people in charge of the catalog who evidently don’t check with the exhibitors with color proofs. There is no excuse for such a prestigious show to have bad catalog reproduction.

    That said, I think this is the best QN ever…and I am especially encouraged to see all the new talent instead of the same old/same old warhorses. Fresh, inspiring work. Congratulations on being part of the exhibit.

  5. Caroline says:

    Two days ago, I visited The Foundry in St. Charles, Missouri, to see Quilt National 2009. I was very impressed with most of the quilts. However, I need some help in understanding the piece that won the award of “Best of Show”. That peice would have been way down on my list of the ones I would have chosen for that award. I did appreciate the use of recycled fabrics but that is about all I appreciated. The design made no sense to me and the workmanship was poor in my opinion. Did anyone else have this reaction?

    I agree that the book did a poor job of printing the colors of the quilts. As I look through the book, I barely recognize the quilts I had seen with my own eyes. I am hoping that in the future, better photography can give us a much better representation of these wonderful works of art.

    On the whole, I was inspired by many of the quilts in the exhibit and I so admire the creative artists who produce such amazing work.

  6. Thanks for the info… I really like this blog. I bookmarked this post and will unquestionably be making a return visit.

  7. superb article here at http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=493 . Thiking to translating your writing into korean for our visitors. Will let you know after I speak to our writers. thank you.

  8. Fantastic blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

  9. Alison says:

    Sorry Tamar, you’ll have to do your own research depending on your particular interests, just as I do.

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