Monday, October 31, 2011

The Q word

I wrote last week about Denise Burge, an artist and quiltmaker from Cincinnati who was recently a visiting artist at the Kentucky School of Art.  In addition to the lecture I attended, she also participated in a panel discussion "Contemporary Art Quilts and Conversation" at the Kentucky Museum of Art + Craft. 

While much of the discussion was the same old discussion you've heard many times before, I was struck by one of Denise's remarks, in response to the same old question of whether you call your work quilts or fiber art or something else.

"As soon as you say the word quilt their eyes glaze over -- either with pleasure or disdain.  There's an instant response to the word," she said.

I lit up in instant sympathy, because I have noticed this response too.  In non-art audiences, it usually elicits the comment, "My grandmother made quilts!"  And immediately I'm in a box that is hard to get out of, as I try to explain that my quilts go on the wall, not on the bed; are made by machine, not by hand; and deal with political issues.  In art audiences, I get the disdain. 

To forestall this response, I rarely use the Q word unless I'm in a gathering where I know everybody else is a quilter too.  That is, in general art circles, or undifferentiated cocktail parties, I tend to be as unspecific as possible, fessing up to fiber art or mixed media or maybe just "art."

But Denise takes the opposite tack.  "I embrace that word 'quilt' a lot because I'm interested in what that word means.  When I take that word away from the description I lose a lot.  Whenever you think of quilts you think of sweetness and light, nostalgia -- you can incorporate that into your work and exploit the resonance.  I think of quilts as layered objects, historical objects, recycled objects.  The combination of the physical nature of the quilt with the emotional resonance makes it a powerful tool for the artist."

This stance works particularly well because her work is tied closely to her memories of home, in the Appalachian mountains, a culture particularly associated with quilts.  When she makes work about the destruction of the environment, it fits perfectly with the metaphor of the quilt as the traditional home.

Many people who work with the quilt format, however, don't have such immediate connections between their subject matter and the traditional feelings about quilts.  The emotional resonance that Denise talks about might not work as well to reinforce the meanings that these artists want to convey.  I wrestle with this issue a lot, not just in whether I should call my work by the Q word but whether I should even work in the Q medium.  So far I've resolved it by having it both ways: I make quilts but I hesitate to call them quilts.  Not sure if this makes me a hypocrite or a pragmatist, or if it even really matters.

What do you think?

Photo du jour


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Photo du jour

My project with Linda McLaughlin continues this week with a new theme: sewing, which probably won't be too difficult for either of us to illustrate. 

Bernkastel, Germany

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is the pendulum about to switch?

We know that all things in life come in phases -- the pendulum swings one way and then turns back.  We also know that some people detect this early, selling the stock while it's still on the way up (but almost at the top), abandoning the trendy fashion before anybody else realizes it's passe.  As a regular reader of the New York Times Styles and Home sections, I am aware of this happening all the time, even if I never see any evidence in my real life.

Recently, for instance, I read that granite countertops are so last decade, and even glass countertops (which I hadn't even realized were in) will be on the way out long before you have a chance to sell your house.  As a proud owner of Formica, I didn't get too upset over either of these reports.  But yesterday's trendwatching story hit a lot closer to home.

Seems that handmade crafts and vintage accessories are reaching the cusp and soon that pendulum will start swinging back, at least according to this article.  Among other examples, the writer cites pillows made from hand-loomed silk or old grain sacks, tie-dyed rugs and knitted ottoman covers.  It has become too easy, she explains, to get one-of-a-kind, handmade stuff, thanks to Etsy and other internet shopping sites.  The writer asks, obviously expecting the answer to be yes, "have we finally reached a saturation point, where the 'authentic' loses its eternal quality and becomes just another fad?"

Well, let's look at the bright side: she didn't mention the Q word.  I always hate to see quilts mentioned in the same breath as pillows and tabletop models of the Eiffel Tower.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think that my favorite handicraft format is something a step above, not because all quilts are art, but because they have a more substantive tradition and heritage.  Perhaps I delude myself (my baby is the most beautiful....).

But if it's true that the pendulum of valuing and making handcrafts is about to swing back in the other direction, I wonder what effect it will have on the quilt scene.  Will a lot of relatively new quilters decide to abandon their little fling and switch to the new trend, whatever that is?
In many ways, niche pastimes such as quilting, knitting, garment sewing and other handcrafts benefit greatly from their periodic fifteen minutes of fame.  New fabrics, yarns, magazines, TV shows, workshops, and other accoutrements of popularity appear and become more widely available.  For an exhilarating moment, practitioners of these centuries-old, traditionally women's arts can feel fashion-forward instead of dowdy, and might even pick up some cash teaching, writing, exhibiting or selling their stuff.

But if (when?) the pendulum swings back, what then? Will the quilt industry settle back and cater less to newbies and more to the hard-core quilters?  Will it get harder to buy our fabric and tools?  Will the quilt shows get less lavish, the winning quilts less encrusted with Swarovski crystals?  Will the younger people who have been pepping up the field move on to other trends and let quilting revert to an old ladies' interest? 

I watched this happen once already, when quilting became fashion's darling during the Bicentennial and the aftermath of the 1971 quilt show at the Whitney Museum.  After a couple of years of media fascination, it went back into the shadows -- not as obsolete or passe as it had been before, but definitely out of the spotlight.  Two steps forward, one step back.  I don't know what the ratio is, but out of every hundred people who discovered quilting, a certain number of them moved on when the pendulum reversed, and a certain number stuck with it. 

There's some satisfaction to living long enough to see things come around full circle, and I think the spiral has definitely moved upwards since our last time in the limelight.  If handcrafted stuff is indeed becoming "just another fad," then maybe I'll be glad to have the fashionistas go somewhere else and leave me and my hardcore friends to our quilting.

Photo du jour


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Denise Burge

Last week I went to a lecture by Denise Burge, a quilter/artist who was in town as a visiting artist with the Kentucky School of Art.  Her work has been in Quilt National twice, in 2001 and 2003, and she is on the faculty of the art school at the University of Cincinnati.

She was born in North Carolina and wanted to make art about her family and her home place, and "quilting seemed to be the right medium."  Driving to and from her home over the years, she noticed "how the land existed around the highway, changed by mountaintop removal.  I was fascinated by the theater of the land and how we use the land; how the land fights back at what we do to it....  fascinated by the theater of how we experience nature." 

She made a series of quilts in which homes were depicted not as house shapes but as mountain shapes.  She showed fanciful machines eating away at mountains, turning them into mud.  In fact, mud became one of her favorite substances and metaphors.  "I think of mud as the most primal substance -- a lot of dead things broken down and merged into a new, vital substance -- much like a quilt."

She cuts small bits of fabric into even smaller bits, stabilizes them with Solvy and sews them together into "fabric mud," a surface that has lost all the characteristics of its component parts.  The mud becomes expanses of color in quilts, or perhaps stands on its own; she made an eight-foot-tall teardrop-shaped construction covered in fabric mud that hangs from the ceiling.  It turned out to be the last quilt she made for several years -- "like a great period at the end of the sentence."

Denise then turned her attention to video.  Again, she was drawn by her fascination with the land, and in particular, with a spill of coal ash from a power plant into a river in eastern Tennessee in 2008.  She filmed the scenes of destruction and seemingly futile attempts to clean up and repair the damage.  As she completed the project, she decided to project the video onto a quilt rather than a plain white screen.

The quilt/movie screen is a large white whole-cloth piece which she embroidered in black thread.  She filmed her hands as she stitched, and at points during the screening you can see her making the designs that are seen on the finished quilt, projected right next to them.  For instance, in this sequence we see her hands, in two different views, stitching the word "FUTURE," which appears on the quilt/screen just above the hands. 

The next day, Denise participated in a panel discussion on contemporary quilts, which I'll write about in another post.

Photo du jour


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Photo du jour

Earlier this year I collaborated with my twin-separated-at-birth Linda McLaughlin on two weeks of daily photographs.  One week she chose a theme for us both to follow; the next week I chose.  We both had fun, and decided to do another round.  I hope you enjoy them, and please check out her daily photo too.

Linda chose this week's theme: red.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


There have been a lot of comments posted to my blog in the last week and I have welcomed them, whether positive or negative.  I haven't posted individual responses because that would be tedious.  But Elizabethdee's recent comment has gotten me back to the keyboard.  She wrote:  "I think you may be seeing an enemy where none exists. Who exactly is this person who has publicly opined that all quilts must be functional; that it's boring and silly to hang a quilt on a wall; and that it's rude to suggest that a museum display art with respect? I don't recall reading any modern quilting blog espousing these beliefs. Frankly I think you may be exaggerating some of the already intemperate (and yes, extremely rude) comments on your post -- and not responding to what is actually going on with modern quilters... To me it's a little ironic that you talk about respect but I don't hear any in the way you talk about modern quilters."

She's right -- it is all about respect.  I perceived disrespect in the way that various people display quilts -- whether it's strange contortions in a museum or artful drapings in photographs that fail to show the quilt in its full glory.  Many of the people who commented perceived disrespect in the way I talked about these issues, interpreting my remarks as criticism of them or the modern quilting movement.  The commenters and I both had vehement words about the people we perceived as disrespectful; I suspect in both cases the vehemence was partly for rhetorical effect. 

But back to Elizabethdee's remarks.  "Who exactly is this person...?"  You're right, no blog is saying these things, but that's not what prompted my remarks.  I am just quoting people who have left comments here.  For instance, Quilted simple wrote:  "I'd much rather look at an interesting photo of a quilt in use than just the quilt -- talk about BORING."  Allison wrote:  "I personally like keeping my babies warm with the quilts that I lovingly made for them... not hanging them up on a wall for all to ooh and aahh at -- how silly."  And many more than I can count have told me I am rude, or worse, for criticizing the museum.   

But on to her important point:  "I don't hear any (respect) in the way you talk about modern quilters."

I'm going to take issue with that criticism.  I've been writing about "modern quilting" for several months, and my comments have largely been an exploration of exactly what "modern quilting" is and how it differs from non-modern quilting.  I am still trying to pin down a definition, but I don't believe I have ever said anything disrespectful about it.  In fact, on my own blog and on others I have said that insofar as I can tell what it is, I think it's a good idea. 

Many commenters this week took exception to my use of the phrase "so-called" to modify modern quilting, implying that it is somehow offensive, and one suggested I look it up in the dictionary.  So I did; my favorite reference, The American Heritage Dictionary, defines it as "1.  Commonly called."  If that's offensive, I think the victim must have been trying very hard to be offended.

I will confess that I had no idea that the issue of whether quilts are photographed full-frontal with no distractions or artfully draped in lifestyle vignettes would be so inflammatory.  I have learned that a lot of people really love those lifestyle photos.  And for the record, I am not upset when people put such photos on their blogs; I am upset when they are used by professionals such as magazine publishers or pattern sellers.  I recognize that the realities of modern consumer marketing may dictate that the lifestyle photo sells better than the plain descriptive one.  But I think this trivializes and disrespects the quilts, making them no more than another photogenic accessory (and maybe that's exactly how they're being regarded and sold).  Because I value quilts highly this upsets me, and sometimes I may write about it.   You may disagree.

Other commenters have noted that it can be hard to take good photos of quilts, for various technical reasons, and I agree.  That's why I don't photograph my own quilts, except for the occasional snapshot of one hanging in a show; I have a pro do it for me.  But certainly if you're publishing a book or magazine or selling quilt patterns or products you can hire a pro too.  And commenters have noted that museums and other venues sometimes have too little space to display a lot of quilts hanging on the wall so people can see the entire thing.  I think if that's the case, the museum should accept fewer quilts and display them all properly rather than accept all comers and crowd them in.  Again, you may disagree. 

So back to Elizabethdee.  I don't think I'm seeing an enemy at all, whether one exists or not.  I am expressing an opinion about something that means a lot to me.  I did not and do not intend to disrespect modern quilters, whether or not they chose to take offense at my posts.  It's easy to get caught up in a feeding frenzy and see offense where none was meant.  I am not going to do the same.  It's probably time for us all to get back to making quilts.

Photo du jour

blue moon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A step backwards?

OK, Modern Quilters, you win.

You take pictures of your quilts any way you want. Drape them over the furniture, hang them on trees, drag them behind the pickup truck, line the cat’s litter box with them. Put the photos on your blogs and I promise not to care.

Except that I feel sad, that perhaps we’re taking a step backwards.

For centuries, women functioned as nameless production units who might have spent years making beautiful quilts or lace or crocheted tablecloths, yet their gorgeous work was denigrated and disrespected. Towards the end of the last century, a timely combination of feminist awareness and broadened sensibilities in the art world changed that attitude.

Quilt projects in many states encouraged ordinary people to haul quilts out of the attic and being them in to be identified, documented and appreciated. Scholarship put names to many of the beautiful pieces that had been anonymous. And the rise of the quilting industry supported millions of people who fell in love with a dying craft and decided to embrace and revitalize it.  (Including you, Modern Quilters, who wouldn't be having half so much fun without your rotary cutters, designer fabric lines, fancy sewing machines, workshops, books, magazines, TV shows, blogs and podcasts about quilting.)

Many of us who loved quilts were delighted at these developments.  We saw our favorite things and, by extension, ourselves, given new respect, new value.  You could announce in mixed company that you made quilts and men might even be impressed!  You might even be able to make money at it! 
A small minority of those enthusiasts took quilting to a new plateau, aspiring to be seen as artists rather than or in addition to craftsmen. Although quilts are now seen in museums and galleries, and a considerable number of venues such as Quilt National are available for such work to be exhibited, it’s a continuing struggle for these artists to be taken seriously.

It’s not only the would-be artists who struggle to be respected; quilters who want only to make nice things for their families to use often find themselves misunderstood and undervalued. Every flea market in the land offers painstakingly handstitched tablecloths, handkerchiefs and tea towels that took some woman hundreds of hours to make – and now not one of her descendents can be bothered to even keep them in a drawer let alone use and treasure them. Every few months the Quiltart list has a new round of letters from people who made beautiful gifts for their alleged loved ones but got neither gratitude nor understanding in return, or from people who want to sell their work but can't net more than five cents an hour because buyers don't see it as valuable.

I think it’s sad that the somewhat higher ground, won by a lot of people through hard and lengthy struggle, is now being conceded without a qualm. If somebody wants to make work for her home rather than for the art quilt show, that’s fine, and I know that there are a lot more people out there like that than the reverse. But if that person publicly maintains that all quilts should be functional, that it’s boring and silly to hang a quilt on the wall, that it’s rude to suggest that a museum ought to treat work on display with respect, then she’s trying to drag the rest of us back down to the bad old days.

Perhaps some of this is generational.  Those who weren't there to see the important breakthroughs, such as the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, or on a lesser level, the elevation of women's traditional craft to higher degrees of importance, don't always appreciate those accomplishments.  Instead, they take them for granted.

What do you think?

Photo du jour

hand in hand

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Photo du jour

one flower

How not to display quilts -- the sequel

Well, I didn't see that one coming!  Who knew that complaining about quilts draped, wrapped, wadded up and photographed underneath babies would be seen by a bazillion web surfers as an insult to them and to everything we hold dear?

Yesterday I wrote about my unhappiness at going into a museum and finding quilts on display, not on the wall so we could see all of them, but in strange shapes and formats.  And then I commented that the Generation Q blog did a similar thing with a photo of a quilt that I found quite appealing -- or at least I liked the part I could see, even though at least half of it was folded under or draped out of view.

Jacquie Gering, who made the quilt, was unhappy to read my post, and as a result, many of her readers shared their feelings by commenting on it.  I have removed the photo of her quilt from my blog, although I would be happy to have you visit the Generation Q blog and see half of her lovely quilt.

To set the record straight, I'd like to share the emails that Jacquie and I exchanged last night.


Dear Jacquie --

What a wonderful crowd of faithful friends you have!

I am sorry that you and they misunderstood my feelings toward your quilt. Actually I liked it a great deal, what I was able to see of it. And I wished I could have seen more of it.

Which I thought was my point -- that the photo did a disservice to your quilt. We rarely see paintings depicted in the media with two-thirds cropped or folded out of view, and probably we wouldn't be much impressed with them if we did see them this way. I think people would be far more inspired if they could see your whole piece.

But you are offended at my showing your quilt, which I regret. Would you like me to take the photo down? Would you like me to clarify that I really like your quilt? Would you like me to apologize? And if so, specifically for what?




Thank you for getting in touch with me. This issue for me isn't about anyone liking my quilt, it is using my work without permission. I also didn't appreciate my photo being associated with a post that demeans modern quilting and which states an opinion with such a negative tone. I would appreciate if you would take the picture down. I understand that my readers have not been kind with their comments. I'm sorry for that. That was not my intent. I was hurt and angry when I read your post.

As for an apology, that is up to you.



Jacquie, I will be happy to apologize for some things.

I'm sorry that I did not ask you for permission to use the photo. I took it from the Generation Q blog, using the same rationale of fair use that most critics and reporters avail themselves of.  The concept behind that rationale is that when work has been published, it's kind of fair game for others to comment on. I think this is well within the bounds of both legal and ethical practice, but it would have been better had I asked you.

I'm sorry that you read my post to be demeaning of modern quilting. You probably have not read many of my earlier posts on this subject, in which I discuss, first, my wondering what exactly Modern Quilting is, and then, my conclusion that it's a fine thing. I believe that you and many of your readers took offense at the word "so-called." I used this word not to derogate the movement, but to identify it, as many of my readers in the past have expressed confusion and bemusement as to how, if at all, it's different from what we have been doing for many years.

I'm especially sorry that you took my remarks about your quilt to be negative. I like your quilt, and I think it should give viewers a lot of good ideas. But I think viewers would find it more inspiring if they could see more of it. I'm sure you have your reasons for photographing the quilt this way, but I'm one person who wishes I could have seen the whole thing.

I am not going to apologize for believing, and saying, that I think it's disrespectful to quilts and to the people who make them -- such as yourself -- to display beautiful work in offhand and trivial views. I was mostly upset to see the quilts in a museum draped so haphazardly in piles or wrapped around strangely shaped objects. If quilts are going to be depicted and sold as home d├ęcor, then of course the standard can be lower, and if people want to take pictures of their quilts with their babies, of course they're welcome to do so. But I wish that quilts could be regarded more highly, if not everywhere, at least in the circles that I care about. And that's not going to happen if quilters don't give and demand more respect for their work.


Monday, October 17, 2011

How not to display quilts

Yes, I know that most people who make quilts do not think of them as art.  Yes, I know that many people in charge of museums and galleries don't think of quilts as art.  Yes, I know that the quilt industry doesn't generally see quilts as art.  But it rattles my cage every time I see quilts displayed for public viewing as though they are nothing more than yardage.

I can't find photos to back up these memories, but have vivid recollections of public museums that displayed small quilts overlapping on horizontal surfaces, so you could only see half.  Once a museum did that with some of my pieces that were on sale as an adjunct to a show where my quilts were hung.  I told them that if that was the best they could do, I would take the for-sale quilts home (they quickly came up with a better solution).

Even if a quilt is traditional and functional, I can't see why a venue that wants to put it on display wouldn't want to have the whole thing visible.  That is, I break out in hives when I see a museum doing this:

But it's not just museums.  I have been following the so-called Modern Quilting movement, a term that seems to encompass younger people with non-traditional design sensibilities.  I know that most of these people are not trying to make art but rather want to make nice things for their homes.  Nevertheless, I don't see how they're supposed to get much inspiration from pictures that show only part of a quilt, no matter how artfully it's arranged on a chair.
I've been seeing photos like this for decades, quilts flung over fences, draped over benches and patches of poison ivy, underneath cats and on top of sleeping babies.  And I'm sick of them.  If quilts are no more than backgrounds for photo ops or evocative props for lifestyle articles, then fine, disrespect them (and rot in hell).  But if people purport to see quilts as something more important, then please do them the courtesy of showing the whole thing.

Photo du jour

mystery message

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black walnuts -- the end

After I noted a week ago that my walnut-dyed fabric was a little pale, several people left comments that I needed more nuts, more time, more heat.  So I gathered up another batch of walnuts, cooked them up, put some fabric into the hot pot to simmer, and then wrapped the cooked nuts in other pieces of fabric.  

This did make the color darker, but I also came to the conclusion that I'm not a big fan of the black walnut color.  I tend to like cool browns and dislike warm ones, and the nuts gave a distinctly warm color. 

I did like the accidental stains that resulted from direct contact with the nuts, much more than the even color of a dyepot.

I cooked another batch of nuts for walnut ink, but this time I simmered the liquid down to a sludge, spread it onto a plate and let it dry into crystals.  These are a specialty product sold for calligraphy, so you can mix a batch of ink to exactly the color you want.  Being able to make my own seemed like a good idea, notwithstanding the fact that I just bought a new bottle of commercial walnut ink, and just made a jar of homemade.  Guess I'll have to use walnut ink on my Christmas ornaments this year.  And every year for the rest of my life. 
Finally, I managed to lean against the gooey pan in my orange T shirt, a garment that I wasn't terribly fond of to begin with, and decided to wrap some nuts in it to make more stains.  You know, one black stain is an accident, several are a design.  I love the way the shirt looks now, and decided to let it sit  unwashed for a while in hopes of setting the black.  
And that's all I'm ever going to do with black walnuts.  Enough is enough.  The end.

Photo du jour


Photo du jour


Saturday, October 15, 2011

More quilts on parade

I wrote last week about the member exhibit at Kentucky Museum of Art + Craft in Louisville.  The museum has another show just ending, a survey of 50 years of work made by members of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen.  Like the member exhibit, this one has plenty of quilts on display, but the tone is more retro, as you might expect from a show reaching back over the last half century.  Here are some of the highlights.

Alma Lesch, Seventeen, 1934, ca. 1984, 27 x 49"

Alma Lesch was the godmother of fiber art in this part of the world and her signature style was to use garments to symbolize their former wearers -- here, her own prom dress. 

Janet Serrenho, Chasing the Rainbow, 2011, 83 x 71"

Rebekka Seigel, Things I Love About the New York Subway, 2006, 42 x 29" (detail below)

I'm sorry that the lighting is bad in my photo because this is a lovely quilt -- superbly crafted and cleverly designed.  I usually am not a fan of people depicted on quilts, because it's so difficult to do it well.  But Seigel's people, graphic without being cute, are perfect.  And don't you love anything with yoyos? 

Jennifer Reis, Three for a Wedding, 2009, 25 x 17"

Justine Dennis, Olives, 2010, 41 x 31" (detail below)

Technically I'd call this a quilt, with layers held together by stitching.  Dennis sure does love using her sewing machine -- some years ago I stole a concept from her of making bowls out of coiled yarn so heavily stitched that they became firm and rigid.

Wayne Ferguson, Luminum Cans, 13 x 15" (detail below)

This is one of three small fiber pieces by the same artist that combine quilt techniques with drawing.  Not sure I understand why he chose to execute these in fabric rather than on paper.

Cathy Vigor, Blue Bells and Fiddleheads, 16 x 20" (detail below)

The silk is fused, cut out and machine stitched.

Jane Burch Cochran, Last Suppers, 2007, 69 x 66"

Finally, a powerful piece that strangely was displayed without letting the viewer in on the meaning.  I learned only from reading in the newspaper later that the subject of the quilt is the last meals ordered by prisoners on Death Row.  But without this information at the museum, I walked past without stopping to scrutinize.  Geez, people, hide your light under a bushel!

Photo du jour

sign of the week

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Photo du jour

I celebrate the real Columbus Day, not the phony long-weekend Monday holiday.  Here's Chris in front of the railroad station in his native Genoa.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quilts on parade

The Kentucky Museum of Art + Craft's member show ends this month, and on a recent visit I was struck with the number of quilts on display -- and the wide variety of quilt styles and techniques they represent.  Thought you might be interested too.  My first comment, of course, is that it's great to see quilts in all-media juried shows alongside the paintings and sculpture, and to find 6 quilts out of 36 works on display is even better.

Heck, why don't I start with my own quilt?  It's entirely pieced, using commercial cotton onto which I wrote a bunch of political rants focusing on the security theater of taking your shoes off and running your garden produce through the X-ray machine twice.  But they're cut up into tiny, unreadable bits.

Kathleen Loomis, Crazed 10: Red Alert, 2010, 79 x 71" (detail below)

Then let's get a closeup of the quilt in the corner of that photo. 

Denise Mucci Furnish, Wheel of Fortune, 2011, 37 x 69" (detail below)

Denise acquires old quilts in advanced degrees of decrepitude, then paints on them with acrylics.  Sometimes the painting reflects the underlying quilt pattern, as in this piece; other times you can discern the quilt pattern only by noting its seams as texture.

Jane Burch Cochran, War Baby, 2009, 69 x 49"  (detail below)

You've probably seen Jane's work before if you've hung out in quilt circles; she has exhibited widely and her signature style, dripping with embellishment, hasn't changed much over a decade or more.  She often incorporates old garments into her work; this piece also includes phototransfer of letters sent to a WW2 soldier talking about his new baby.

Melinda Snyder, Mark Making II, 2010, 57 x 24"  (detail below)

Melinda combines different fibers in her elegant, formalist pieced compositions; this one includes cotton, silk and linen.  The inset panels are painted, making a nice contrast with the solid colors of the "frames."  She's an art teacher by day and a couple of years ago, when my granddaughter was in her fifth-grade class, she had the kids paint on fabric, which was then incorporated into her quilts.  I don't know whether she's still outsourcing the painting this way or doing it herself.

C. J. Pressma, Secrets, 2011, 99 x 69"  (detail below)

C. J. started his art career in photography and has been making his photos into quilts for several years.  With a wide-format printer that accepts fabric on a roll, he can make a huge quilt with only one seam down the middle.  His images, of course, are heavily manipulated before printing, to combine bits of many different photos into a montage.  Many of them came from graffiti, posters, billboards and other "found art" that he photographed.

Jo Ann Grimes, Last Man Out, 38 x 53" (detail below)

Jo Ann is the only one of the quilters in this show whose work I am not familiar with.  She uses photorealism, executed in heavy threadpainting.

The show, at KMA+C in Louisville, continues through October 15.