Friday, July 30, 2021

Form, Not Function 6 -- not like the others

Sorry for the hiatus in blog posts -- I had a wonderful two-week visit from my sister, during which we saw friends, looked at art, ate in restaurants, bought art supplies and new furniture and tackled the huge job of reorganizing my studio.  No time for blogging with all that going on!

But she's home now, and I'm back to wind up my report on Form, Not Function, the juried quilt show at Carnegie Center for Art & History in New Albany IN.  The show has closed since my last post, but I have saved the fun stuff for last.  It seems that in every quilt show there's something completely different from the traditional quilt format.  Sometimes, like last year, it takes best in show; some years, like this time, the different one just sits there being delightfully different.

 

Elizabeth Morisette, Beak Mask

This weird contraption is made of zippers, opened to reveal the teeth, then coiled and stitched into a cone that morphs into a cylinder.  A clever riff on pandemic masks, with the patina of age and use on the old tapes.

But is it a quilt, you ask?  (Long-time readers know that I frequently ask this question when confronted with the different something at the quilt show.)  I say yes -- it has layers held together by stitching.    

I thought this one was witty and weighty at the same time.  Brava!


Monday, July 12, 2021

Form, Not Function 5 -- more people

More portraits of people at FNF, but not in the hyperrealistic style of those we looked at last week.

 


Clara Nartey, The Gele Skyscraper, detail below

The elaborate headdress looks like it's pieced from commercial striped and dotted fabrics, but it's actually digitally printed and then enhanced with thread painting, especially on the face.














Pamela Mick, Riders on the Storm, detail below

This quilt also looks pieced but isn't -- it's painted with dye and then quilted with multicolored thread painting. 

Holly Cole, Come and Go, detail below









Here the technique is raw-edge collage, with loose drawing and wash on pale fabric to sketch in the women carrying and wheeling their goods to and from the market.  Meander quilting gives texture in the background, perfectly complementing the loose drawn lines in the portraits,

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Form, Not Function 4 -- realistic people

I was surprised at the number of representational works at FNF this year.  Of the representations, most were of people, and mostly faces.  Here are some of the more realistic treatments:

Linda Anderson, Remembering 

Linda was a prizewinner at last year's FNF, using the same technique of fabric painting plus intricate multicolor threadwork to make beautifully accurate portraits.















Deborah Hyde, Monkeys In My Hair (Evie), detail below

Deborah is another repeater, in both appearance and technique, having been in FNF in 2019, 2017 and 2016.  All of her quilts are pieced from tiny squares of fussy-cut print fabrics, about a half-inch apiece.  This year she's added little cartoony critters,  including monkeys, in and around the little girl's hair, emphasized with a bit of hand stitching.














Finally, my favorite of the realistic portraits is this tour-de-force of hand stitching.

Shin-hee Chin, The Evening Hour of a Hermit, details below

The painterly strokes of this stunning image are made from long strands of perle cotton, stitches that are interlaced in deep tangles of thread that only occasionally go through to the back layer of the quilt.
















Faces also came in other varieties than super-realistic; I'll show you some of them in another post.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Form Not Function 3 -- bindings

Ingrid Lincoln left a comment on my last blog post: "I know these are photos so I may not be seeing everything, but it appears these quilts do not have the usual bindings.  Are bindings out for art quilts?"

Good eye, Ingrid!  You're right that none of the quilts I've shown so far have bindings.  And after I read the comment, I looked through all my photos and discovered that not a single quilt in FNF has a traditional binding.  Last year, only three out of 17 had bindings.  Not sure I'd say they're "out," but I think it's safe to say that bindings are not the standard finish for art quilts these days.   


Lee Sproull, Archilinea, detail

Why is that?  I've delivered many rants on this subject, so I have thought it through.  In my opinion, contemporary quilters who want their work to be seen as art feel a need to distance themselves from traditional quilts.  Although we love the format and the feel of quilts, we don't want people to immediately see our work as something their grandmother would have made and put on the bed.  One way to sever ties with tradition is to omit the binding.

In addition, omitting the binding mirrors a trend in contemporary painting in which traditional frames are no longer necessary.  Painters often feel that frames, especially the elaborate models that surround so many older works, are too constraining.  They hold the picture in, instead of letting it breathe freely and occupy its own space confidently.  Go to a gallery or contemporary museum and many, if not most of the paintings will be unframed.  

Bobbe Nolan, Flyover 10 -- Dancing in the Rainbow Mountains, detail

If you don't finish a quilt with a traditional binding, you can either leave the edges raw or overcast (don't shudder -- sometimes that looks just fine) or use a facing, a strip of fabric applied much like a binding but turned entirely to the back so it's invisible.  Facings are especially useful for quilts with jagged, irregular edges.  (Here's my tutorial on how to make perfect facings without lumpy corners, and how to face a curved edge.)

I'm a bit conflicted about bindings.  I usually go with facings because of wanting to look less like quilts, more like art.  But bindings are easier to do, way less fiddly, even with mitered corners.  They lie flatter because there's less bulk. In a few situations you want that crisp narrow contrast edge for artistic value. And in others, you can make the binding into a non-event by matching the color of the adjacent piecing.   (Here's my tutorial on how to make perfect bindings: part 1, cutting; part 2, sewing; part 3, folding and stitching.)

I advise my students to learn both methods of finishing, and choose the one that seems to work best for the situation.  

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Form, Not Function 2 -- more abstraction

Three of the top four winners at this year's FNF were abstract quilts, and there were several more that caught my eye.















Margaret Black, Curb Appeal 20

Margaret has been a repeated winner in the big quilt shows, including best of show at Quilt National four years ago.  As you can tell by the title, she's played this tune before -- lots of black and white, especially in narrow "ladders" punctuating neighborhoods of various colors.  Intricate piecing of small bits, spots of brilliant color popping out from the overall picture.  I'm always intrigued by trying to note how and whether artists with long series try something new.  What I see new in piece #20 compared to #6 and #7 in past FNF shows are the long striped panels in neutrals, especially prominent in the northwest and southeast corners.  






















Denise Roberts, MITOTE #12

Denise is another quilt all-star, a regular at all the big shows and having won the Quilts Japan Prize at Quilt National four years ago.  She's been using the same sinuous curve piecing for some time, but this year it's a much more complex composition than she has done before.  The different colored curves stay neatly in their layers, the palest colors on top and the darkest far away.


Daren Redman, Feel Like Dancing

Daren's is the cheeriest of the bunch, with large shapes in bright, clear colors.  It's a kind of sampler of different ways to pep up a skinny vertical rectangle with some sort of contrast pattern.  A very close look reveals that she apparently quilted the piece in sections, then invisibly joined the panels -- a beautifully executed trick.

I'll show more quilts from FNF in subsequent posts.  Meanwhile, the show is on display at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany IN through July 17, and I know you would like it if you were to visit. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Happy birthday!

Today is my father's 108th birthday, although he did not live to blow out the candles.  He died in 2007 but every year on his birthday I like to do a little something to remember him.  Nine years ago I wrote this blog post, which if you even read it to begin with have probably forgotten, so I won't feel guilty reprinting it now. 

Since this blog is mainly about art, I'll take this opportunity to reminisce a bit about how my father taught me about art.  Although he and my mother were both only one generation from pretty damn poor and uneducated, out of the blue they both developed a love of art that was quite unexpected in the dark days of the depression.  Dad began to acquire art as a very young man and was quite proud of his growing collection.  Indeed, buying art was one of the most important activities of his life, a passion he instilled in his children as well.

Among his World War II souvenirs was this lovely watercolor of Weilburg, Germany, which he purchased from an impoverished German artist he ran into on his military rounds.  The purchase price, modest though it was for Dad, allowed the artist and his family to buy food for several weeks.

Shortly after the war, Dad was asked to judge an art contest for his local museum.  His honorarium consisted of the second-place winner, this gorgeous picture of Saginaw, Michigan, with the Saginaw River in the foreground.  The steeple at the right was the church where my parents were married and my sister and I were baptized.

When I was about 10, Dad took me on a Christmas shopping mission -- we went to an art fair and bought a painting that was supposed to be a secret gift for my mother.  It showed up under the tree with an envelope reading "A surprise for Vi!"  But when she opened the card, it said "The surprise is that this painting is for Kathy!"  It was the first piece of art that was mine alone, and the first of dozens, if not hundreds, that Dad gave to me.

All three of these paintings now hang in my home and whenever I see them -- wherever I turn -- I am reminded of how my father opened my eyes and my world to art.  A favorite family activity was to hit an art fair (the Cheap Art Fair was the best of all) and buy a bunch of new stuff.  We shopped at the low end of the food chain but managed to find plenty of lovely things.  The occasional dud didn't cause all that much financial regret, and probably made some artist quite happy.

After my parents died, my sibs and I divvied up the artwork, a process that began long before our parents' demise, has taken years to accomplish and still isn't complete.  I'm now trying to pass some of the art along to succeeding generations, continuing Dad's legacy, passing down both the tangible and the ineffable.

Edmund Arnold and Baby Kathy






















So Happy Birthday, Dad!  You're here in every room of the house, living on in the art.