Yesterday my husband and I visited an art quilt show at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA.
As you may expect, this show has been disrupted by the pandemic and I think this is the first time in a couple of years that it has appeared in person. I have never taken classes at this center but I know of it through art friends, and I’ve been on their mailing list for some time. I’m considering taking a class here, and if I don’t sign up this semester, I feel sure someday I will – so this visit also allowed me to check out the facility and get familiar with the location.
Here’s the info on the show. You can visit it online, so I won’t go through all the details. I’ll just give my personal impressions of the exhibit.
As you know, I did a lot of fabric art in the past, but not much since maybe about 2000 or so, with the exception of a few small items. I was interested to see where things stand in the art quilt world and I thought this exhibit would be informative.
The quilts were hung in two large galleries. I’ll show you overviews of each one. Let’s start here, as I sort of pan around the room from the entrance.
And here is the second room:
And here are a few of the details I found of interest. Note: I didn’t record the names of the artists or the quilts, since you can easily find them on the exhibit online page – I just went for photos of details or items that captured my eye.
I noticed that many, if not most, of the quilts utilized a quilting system of straight line stitching. I think this is because most of the quilts relied on their fabrics and colors for their visual impression, and not much for texture, so the stitching did not interfere with that objective.
I found it interesting how the stitching color affected the impression of color that the fabrics made.
I think the effect was even more pronounced in this quilt. Imagine how this detail section would look if the stitching followed the fabric colors in all cases.
Our favorite quilt, however, exploited color in its overall impression as well as employing a lot of texture. I also liked the pictorial nature of the quilt, and the idea that there is a story here. I also really like the construction technique and how it reads differently close up and from across the room.
One other quilt that caught our eye was this one constructed of mesh. It was displayed so that it hung in front of a window and could be viewed from both sides. Though I took photos of just this one piece, the same maker had another one right next to it (you can see a portion of it in the first photo, at the right) that used the same technique in another way.
I found these innovative and fun to look at, and also, I liked the idea that both sides of the art could be viewed.
I enjoyed the exhibit, but overall, I feel like I’ve seen similar work before and with the couple of exceptions I mentioned, nothing felt that fresh or different to me. I guess I have seen many very well-constructed quilts over the years and I now am looking for something that stands out and shouts out to me, commands attention. And something that is maybe coming from an unexpected direction or perspective. These quilts mostly felt pretty impersonal and almost detached to me.
Well, that’s just my opinion. I’m glad to have had the chance to see fiber art in such a setting. It’s important to see fabric work in person if possible as it reads so differently than when it’s photographed. And, it’s another step for me in heading toward my goal of rejoining the fiber art world, even in the small way that I have been contemplating, with my new sewing machine and my small stash of recently collected fabrics.
I think curation has a lot to do with what people make–they are making things they hope will be accepted into shows, so they do what they’ve seen accepted into shows…it’s like a feedback loop. Not just true in fiber, but for all arts–everyone sees what everyone else is doing on instagram or whatever, what gets likes and publicity, and it makes it hard for most people to keep and develop their own voice. (K)
You said this so well. I feel the same way. I think of it as an outer-directed art world vs an inner directed (although of course it is not possible to be 100% one way or the other, I think, but I do think there can be very little of one and a lot of the other, if you see what I mean). This show to me was very outer-directed, but I also think the curators have their piece to play too – they (to me) maybe passed over things that were more individual or inner directed, too, to choose these instead, because they did not fit their vision of what the show or indeed, quilting, should be?. I also think the medium of quilting is still affected by the idea of neatness, stitch perfection (machine or hand), and so on – the technician. But of course I see that in other mediums, too, especially clay, to choose one. Anyway, I think it leads to a sameness and predictability. As I said, I feel like I’ve seen this show before even though of course I haven’t.
That’s true. Curators have a big influence on what people see, and in consequence, what people choose to make. And I also think that’s true about ideas about perfection. Those ideas permeate everything in our society, from child-rearing and school, to housekeeping and employment.
The idea there is the right way to do something in an activity has some validity to a certain point – you need to use the materials in certain ways to get things to work, say – but when it goes into what you choose to make with the materials, that opens up the can of worms, so to speak.
Also these are art quilts–not made to be used. But even with that limitation, look at the magic of Gee’s Bend quilts that were made to be used and were used. I don’t see any of that magic in this exhibition.
You are right. If someone has a vision to express, I believe it will happen, and there are so many ways to do this. Without this vision, well, it’s just…not magic.
Thanks for sharing this exhibit and your experience attending. When I go to quilt shows I too am looking for something fresh and exciting. I do notice on a lot of modern quilts they are using straight line stitching. I’ve used that myself. When I get back to art quilting, I am going to think fresh and exciting and try not to be influenced too much by the work of others (and is that even possible in the art quilting world at this point..hmmm), Reading the comments above, I wonder if there were fresh and exciting pieces that did not get curated in the show and the curator just put in what they like…
I’m glad you had thoughts on this, I was hoping to hear what you thought, because you are so connected to this world of fabric in your own work and in participating in exhibits. Sometimes I think quilting and fabric art has two competing trends – one is technical perfection and one is the artistic vision. Traditional quilting does not value going out of the lines and art quilting still seems to me to feel restricted by quilting’s “rules” as to how far to go and still be a quilt? As for the curator thing I think it exists in any kind of exhibit where someone chooses the items (I’m even doing it, I recently “curated” a display of recommended books for my library) but maybe the problem is not the curator but the applicants trying to please the curator to get into the show and get their work seen. I’m very familiar with this scenario from my art activities. In any case, it has given me a lot to think about, this exhibit!
I appreciate those insights! I don’t always like to call my fiber art creations “quilts”, you can never comfortably snuggle under them – ha! I just like the term fiber/textile art!
I agree with you, I like fiber art as the term, expecially as it then includes other forms of fiber art. Sort of like saying painting, there are different mediums to further describe. I would never call your work “quilting” – that is just not descriptive of what the whole art is, it just tells one of the skills you used in making it. FIber art, oh yes.