I've been going through photos, and was reminded that I always intended to write more about my trip to Lincoln, including our visit to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. I took a lot of photos, only a few of which are shown here. In fact editing through those photos and deciding what to write was one reason this post was delayed nearly a month. Be warned, this is a photo-heavy post.
This large art-quilt is by Velda Newman. There were three quilts in this exhibit, all huge, all meant, it appears to me, to be public installations, quilt as art. The smallest one, the last one I show, is about the size of the large painting I bought for my living room. The one shown above is larger than my longest living room wall. I suppose I should have gotten a photo with one of us for scale, but that would have interfered with the loveliness of the quilt itself.
Despite being large, the detail is also meticulous. Admittedly, I was most entranced by the colors, and there is nothing surprising in that. And I am amazed at the artist's ability not just to conceive of the idea, but to execute the work with the large pieces of fabric. I love small things and small pieces, but if you've been reading here you've seen that. My inclination with large pieces of fabric is simply to roll myself up in them, swaddled. And yet it is for this reason that I am even more amazed: the idea and he execution are breathtaking.
Look at the piecing and the quilting on this detail, a section of the quilt seen below.
Obviously none of these are one's grandmother's quilts. The quilts I am showing today are all by artists, artists who are respected in their field. but the styles are remarkably different. That is the point. Some quilt are envisioned as art, some as craft, some as a blurring of the two. Newman's quilts, at least the quilts seen here, are traditional quilts in terms of technique but not in terms of subject and scale; they are quilts obviously meant for public spaces, not intimate lives.
Although they speak the language of art, they do so in a different dialect than that which is traditionally reserved for the fine arts. This merging of genre's offers much latitude for insight and revelation. This blurring of genres is something I see happening in similar ways in some kinds of music, in venues like Big Ears. But perhaps that is my bias as well. I love tiny details and amorphous broad categorizations.
Notice above the way the butterfly extends past the edge of the border. Notice also the way the stitching of the smooth fabric, from a distance, gives an sense of softness, of depth, almost of a velvety texture, like the wing of a living butterfly. If I did not know the scale of this piece, I would think the red tip on one butterfly's wings was softly embroidered, but it is stitched with smooth fabric. Notice, in the photo below, by a different artist, the blending of materials, the watercolor-like effect created by blending hand-dyed fabrics with piecing, embroidery and brushstrokes.
But much as I love these large-scale works and the idea of art for public spaces, which is a bit of a theme at this moment in time, not just in quilt circles, I also love the small and the intimate, the functional, the idea that beauty is something that is a part and parcel of our lives, both public and private.
These works are by Japanese quilter Eiko Okano. Many of these quilts were more functional, and more traditional in size. The above small pieces were actually described as study pieces, but I love how they are also useful, not something to be placed in a drawer but which can be used.
Although Okano uses multiple techniques, her work bridges the traditional with the modern, art with life, and the necessity of things, but things that bring beauty to existence. The quilt above is a traditional size that could be used on a bed or on a wall.
Note the detail, each of these tiny pieces that make up the whole. Traditional techniques and stitches, a widely varied selection of fabric styes and prints, combined into something that both honors tradition and the present, art and craft, necessity and beauty.
So how do we define art? How do we define craft? I do think that is always a question worth exploring. This work by Molly Anderson is obviously a quilt, obviously a celebration of traditional handwork with appliqué, quilting and embroidery. And yet it is something to be seen, to be appreciated in and of itself -- visual representation of both the world, but also of something intrinsically human -- something that takes what we know and moves us to think and see in new ways.