Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation

The first time I saw an exhibition of art quilts* it changed my entire concept of what was possible as a quilter. During my 28 years of quiltmaking, art quilts have been a source of inspiration.

I was super thrilled to receive a review copy of Art Quilts Unfolding from Schiffer Publications, a celebration of The Studio Art Quilt Association, founded in 1989 to promote art quilts.

Art Quits Unfolding documents the 50-year history of the art quilt movement, lushly illustrated by the art quilts of each time period.

Timelines for each decade mark the major shows, publications, and venues. The book shares each decade's important artists and their quilts, followed with a gallery of quilts from that time period and articles on the decade's important collections, collectors and publications.
art quilts
Spin Cycle. 1998. 66" x 71". Commercial cotton, hand-dyed and airbrushed cotton. Machine pieced and appliqu├ęd, machine quilted. Photo: James Dewrance. Image from the publisher on Amazon.
The breadth of art quilts embraces the abstract and representational, using traditional quilt materials and techniques and employing non-traditional materials and embellishments.

Piecing, applique, painting, embroidery and thread painting, fabric manipulation, embellishing-- the techniques used have no limits! New technologies have revolutionized the art quilt, such as manipulation of images printed on fabric and programmable longarm quilting. The 94-year-old quilter in my weekly group scans images to print on fabric!

Every quilter and artist will discover techniques, art, and voices to inspire them!
Leonard. 2017. 27" x 37". Hand-dyed cheesecloth, cotton, silk organza. Collection: Roberta Russell Photo: Ray Pilon.
image from the publisher on Amazon
Some of my favorite art quilts appear. I particularly enjoy quilt incorporating words and those which address the human experience. Such a quilt is Chawne Kimber's quilt The One for Eric Gardner, now in the Michigan State University collection. I read Matt Taibbi's book I Can't Breathe about Gardner, and this quilt vividly captures the story.

Velda Newman's Sunflower State
at the Grand Rapids AQS Quilt Show
Many of the quilts and artists included were familiar to me through publications and shows I have attended. But I also discovered many new artists and quilts.

Over the years I attended quilt shows, subscribed to art quilt publications, and bought art quilt books. I tried various techniques. The art quilt movement has been an inspiration to take risks and find my own voice.

Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation
Sandra Sider, ed.
Schiffer Publications
Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″ | 457 color images | 352 pp
ISBN13: 9780764356261
Hardcover $49

from the publisher:From 1965 through today, the art quilt movement has grown to become one of the most exciting art forms of the 21st century. Until now, there has not been a comprehensive, chronological history of the studio art quilt, which has become an international phenomenon. This feast for the eyes offers full-color images of 400 masterpieces along with engaging interviews and profiles of 58 influential artists, key leaders, important events, and significantcollections. Organized by decade, an additional 182 international artists’ works are featured. An introduction by Janet Koplos, former senior editor of Art in America, and a conclusion by Ulysses Grant Dietz, emeritus chief curator of the Newark Museum, help us to understand the impact and the future of the art. This publication originated with Studio Art Quilt Associates, a non-profit professional organization founded in 1989 and now serving 3,500 members in nearly forty countries.

*I made my first quilt in 1991. A few months later my family was traveling across Pennsylvania when I noted a quilt show, Flights of Imagination held at Donnecker's in Ephrata, PA. I saw my first art quilts and they gave me a vision of what was possible. I worked hard to master traditional quilt skills with my eye on the dream of someday making art quilts.

One of the quilts that most inspired me at that show was Jonathan Shannon's July, a representational quilt that is also surreal with giant sunflowers against a blue background, with fish swimming between the flowers. Is the blue background sky? Water? Are the flowers a reflection?
photo of July by Jonathan Shannon
Flights of Imagination 1992

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