Six Continents of Quilts
|Charlotte Yde, Personalities--Feeling Blue,
2001; hand-dyed and commercial cotton, metallic/silk organza,
cotton batting and backing; reverse appliqué, machine
pieced, machine quilted; 53 by 69 inches. Images courtesy
of the American Craft Museum.
Ursula Ilse-Neuman, curator at the American Craft Museum
in New York, selected more than 50 art quilts from the museum's
collection for "Six Continents of Quilts." They were dramatically
installed in the PaineWebber Lobby Gallery in midtown Manhattan
July 3 - September 13 (with UBS PaineWebber Inc. sponsoring
the exhibition). The quilts, including the backs of several
pieces, were partially visible from the sidewalks outside
the building. From inside the gallery, transparent walls integrated
the art work with the scenery beyond them, in a constantly
shifting vista as viewers walked through the space. The venue
itself contributed to the vitality of the exhibition, especially
since the wall was constructed in a rectangular grid pattern
reminiscent of quilt blocks.
Approximately half of the quilts were completed within the past
two years, making this exhibition a very contemporary presentation
of international fiber art. Of the most recent quilts, half
are by foreign artists; roughly the same percentage of foreign
artists were in the show as a whole. Except for three works,
including the first of Nancy Crow's historic art quilts in the
"Color Blocks" series, the remaining pieces in the exhibition
were completed during the 1990s. While surface design processes
unified the compositions in many of these quilts, densely textured
areas of embroidery and quilting enlivened the surfaces of others.
Art quilts by many of the names one would expect to see were
included, in excellent examples of their artistic styles: Karen
Felicity Berkenfeld (who died in 2001), Dorothy Caldwell, Judith
Content, Michael Cummings, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Marilyn Henrion,
Inge Hueber, Wendy Huhn, Michael James, Patricia Malarcher,
Bonnie Peterson, Faith Ringgold, Joan Schulze, Robin Schwalb,
Ludmila Uspenskaya, and others. Their quilts alone would have
made a spectacular show, accomplishing via a plethora of techniques
and processes what Ilse-Neuman deems "the real challenge for
the quilt artist, [which] is to go beyond a preoccupation with
technique and materials and to focus on a concept worthy of
the effort expended."
|Cas Holmes, White Cross, 2000 - 2002; shirting,
emulsion paint, paper, found fabric poppies, photocopy
transfers; hand dyed, hand and machine stitched;
67 by 75 inches.
The foreign artists are from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark,
England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand,
Norway, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and Wales. Among those
premiering art quilts in the United States in this exhibition
are Cas Holmes, Gisela Hafer, Junko Maeda, Jeanette Gilks, Barbara
Grünewald, and Munni Srivastava. Although there is a definite
European emphasis in the selection of foreign artists, and although
one might wish to have seen a few more of the astonishing art
quilts being created by Australian and Japanese artists, "Six
Continents of Quilts" was, after all, drawn exclusively from
the collection of the American Craft Museum. It is amazing that
the quilts of so many foreigners have been acquired for the
permanent collection of an institution whose name emphasizes
American artists. The museum is to be commended for such diverse
documentation of the international impact of an art form originating
in the United States.
|Susan Denton, Granite, 2001; hand-dyed and
commercial cottons; machine pieced, hand appliquéd and
quilted, airbrushed with silk dyes, rubber stamped with
permanent linen-marking ink; 61.75 by 52.5 inches.
|Gisela Hafer, Portraitvariationen,
1997; cotton; silkscreened, stamped, and machine pieced,
quilted, and embroidered; 58 by 88 inches.
"Six Continents of Quilts" is one of the more interesting
nonjuried art quilt exhibitions mounted in this country during
the past decade, and fortunately an international tour is
being planned.The Michner Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania,
will host the show April 26 - July 6.
Sandra Sider is a graduate student in art history at the
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She is writing
a book on the origins of art quilts, 1960 - 1980.
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