Fortunate timing had me in northern Colorado, USA, for several events in August last. I try to time a visit to family in the area and catch the annual “New Legacies” exhibition at the Lincoln Centre, Fort Collins. This is the 35th year of this remarkable show, and in the early ’90s I, too, was a participant. Juried entries come from all over the USA, and the result is a really good survey exhibition of the current state of the art quilt medium.
Before sharing some of my favourites from this show, I must say that more than ever this past year I have been aware of the blurring of boundaries between quilts, prints on fabric, painted fabrics, embroideries, ‘mixed media’ – the current state of textile and fibre art is as exciting as ever, and really, the only thing that might define a ‘quilt’ these days is its layered construction held together with stitch or something that functions as ‘stitch’. Nowadays even the middle layer/batting is not required as per the now accepted formal definition adopted by SAQA, ART QUILT: “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”
It is not even necessary for the layers to be ‘fabric’ – merely something that functions as fabric, so think plastic sheeting, insect screen mesh, tyvek and other construction materials, think sheet metal, think slices of wood or stone – there is no limit except the artist’s imagination. Well, there were no slices of wood or slabs of stone in this show, but all these materials have appeared on or in mixed media works in recent years, and will again.
I always put my favourite first in such an article! On silk, this wonderful piece Wave Equations by Charlotte Ziebarth resulted from digital print, cutting, fusing, and stitch. It was inspired by water of course, but as Charlotte writes, it is the quality of ‘wateriness’ that she is exploring here, not wanting to merely present the actual photographic representation of it, and she succeeds brilliantly. I’m always interested to see how fellow artists handle their edges. The edge can make or break a piece, and just because it’s ‘a quilt’ doesn’t mean it has to be bound as traditional quilts always are, to withstand the rigors of life as bedding. I frequently favour a faced edge, or torn edge, though I also use fine bindings when appropriate – artistic choices – and in the detail pic on the left you’ll see a highly effective but well constructed ‘rough’ edge. Love it.
The next two works were hung together, enhancing each other while inviting eye movement back and forth between them. On one important level, these writhing lines link the works, each suggesting upheaval, to me at least.
Left: Denise L. Roberts Mitote 28inH x 91inW. Right: Judy Kirpich The Day After, No.3 49inH x 59inW
Denise Roberts’ title ‘Mitote’ is a Toltec concept referring to the swirl of ideas and concepts in the mind. With use of colour and expert improvisational cutting and piecing, she achieves great depth and a sense of complexity which may be, or may not be, a political statement on the state of affairs in her country. The message in the second work, though is unmistakable. A flag hung upside down is the internationally recognised sign of distress, and Judy Kirpich has appliqued fabric pieces to represent garish, childish style, angry-looking graffiti, on an upside down US “flag”. There are no stars and the stripes are uneven, but it clearly suggests her nation’s flag. Her catalogue statement says it “…deals with the current political state in our country following the election of the new administration.” Powerful stuff, equal second favourites.
Wen Redmond, Water Markings, 23inH x 58inW
Acknowledging a lifelong source of “contemplation and comfort” in Water Markings, Wen Redmond presents a tranquil piece, typical of her work which I always enjoy seeing in real life. She has spent years mastering her signature combination of mixed media works comprising digital print on fabric+paint+fabric manipulation+stitch. This work is typically cut into sections and re-joined (tied) to form a slightly but deliberately ‘mis-matched’ assembly of different but related colours and textures. It looks beautiful and deceptively ‘simple’, but I’m sure it’s not.