So I went to the Quilt Visions opening a few weeks back and this is what I thought: Wow. This is ABSTRACT. In fact, if you didn’t have squares or abstraction in your piece, you probably weren’t in this show. I can think of about 3 pieces that weren’t abstract, and two of them were abstracted. And another two were so close to the subject, that they read as generally abstract. It reminded me of the Visions of old, back up at the Oceanside Museum of Art, where I’d walk through and say, well, I don’t do squares and I don’t do abstract, so I will never get in.
Now in reality, it’s different jurors every year, so that does have an effect on the show. The three jurors are Patty Hawkins, Sue Benner, and Bruce Hoffman, two art quilters and one director/curator. The jurors stated that they wished for the exhibit to show that art quilting is fine art, and it shows a universality of artistic expression. They were directed to “assess the entries in the broader contemporary art context.” Benner admitted that “as a panel we tended towards abstraction.” I’m glad they admitted that. Hawkins claims they were “seeking outstanding artistry within the broad range of voices.” Hoffman mentions that “all art should be judged with the highest of criteria and should be true to great design, understanding of color relationship, secure in strong draftsmanship and the nuances of fine craftsmanship.”
I am glad that they said nothing about the show being innovative or the cutting edge of the art quilt world, because those things would be untrue. Let me be clear, there is some beautiful work in this show. There is some amazing work in this show. There are also pieces that are derivative and that I can walk right past without feeling a need to explore. Yes, that’s always the case, but I would hope it would be less so in one of the bigger art quilt shows. Much as I love having the Visions Art Museum in my town, it’s small…I wish it were a bigger space and that the Quilt Visions exhibit could also be bigger. Then again, I wish a lot of things that haven’t happened yet. And the theme? I saw a few quilts that hit the theme, but I don’t know that the theme is the point.
I would suggest you get a copy of the catalog if art quilting is your thang…you don’t have to MAKE them. You can just like looking at them. Here’s some that I thought were intriguing.
Melody Randol’s piece Still Waters is quietly beautiful. OK, maybe not so quietly with all those marks, but a stunning piece, really deep with wonderful mark-making. What’s interesting in looking at her website is that she has a lot of beautiful landscapes on there, but none that look like this piece.
Rachel Brumer’s 88 Constellations is another intriguing abstract, with marks and stitching representing an “abstracted vision of a turbulent sky,” interesting because it is mostly white. This doesn’t look like much in print, but is wonderful in person.
Diane Siebels‘ Head 3 was a piece I really loved. A flashback to crazy quilts, but without all the pieces, the stitching is full of movement and color. I have to say, this piece doesn’t fit into the show, but I’m glad it’s there (and to be honest, I wish there were more pieces that didn’t FIT into this show…it would be more interesting). Siebels has some interesting tree constructions on her website as well. I will tell you that I couldn’t see the heads on there on Chrome; I had to switch to Firefox. YMMV.
Maggy Rozycki Hiltner’s Red and White Quilt with Racist Embroidery is more interesting because of the thought behind it than the actual construction. Rozycki Hiltner added rescued racist embroideries from old textiles to a rescued red and white quilt, bringing up all those stereotypes of African Americans in our past, definitely a conversation piece. She has some very interesting and political (and some just amusing) pieces on her website, all echoing or appropriating the embroideries of the past, those dish towels and potholders and tablecloths.
Jean Herman’s Katherine a la Picasso caught my eye because it was one of the few figurative pieces in the show, yet highly abstracted. I’m still not sure I like it, but if I stand and stare at a piece for a long time, I would call it successful. The black line unifies it greatly.
Helen Geglio’s The Lost Art of Mending 3: Constellation is a quirky little piece that needs to be stared at. It has the look of the top of someone’s bed, but it’s the mending marks and hand-stitching that makes this an interesting piece. This is an abstract I can get behind. I would love to see more of her work, but she seems to not have a website.
Emily Richardson’s piece Swiftly is a subtle piece, but so beautiful, with the depth of the silk and the color shifts across the piece, plus the hand-stitching. Richardson doesn’t seem to have her own website, but here is one gallery that represents her.
Vicki Carlson’s Points in Time is another piece where the hand-stitching has made it interesting. The color movement in the repeated circular shapes where they overlap creates a lot of interest. I do think this one also reads better in person.
There were other pieces that were executed well or looked nice, but they just reminded me of other pieces I’d seen about a million times. And there were some, like Shin-hee Chin’s piece Ryu, Gwan-Sun where I was intrigued by how the piece stays together…it’s interesting to look at in terms of construction, and I do love how she is experimenting with making faces in different ways.
And then there were a few that I thought, why is this in here? This is not what I would consider fine art, to quote the jurors. And yet, I know that looking at a million pictures of things that look better in real life and trying to make decisions for a coherent show must be difficult. I also wish that if the jurors were only going to focus on abstracts that they admitted that beforehand, so the figurative people could decide if they wanted to make a donation to the museum, because that’s what it is when the jurors go that way. I guess they could have realized their tendencies after that fact, but it’s amusing to me that there’s never been a show that hasn’t been heavily abstract…and even if I were the juror, it is the way with art quilts that the entries would probably be mostly abstract…but can you imagine picking a Visions or Quilt National exhibit one year that is almost all figurative work? That might be interesting…in a whole ‘nother way. Hey, I think I suggested a show like that to SAQA, and they told me I needed to find a gallery that would do that (ahem. hello.).
Anyway, the show’s worth seeing. Most of the bigger-name shows are…even if it’s just for the 3 or 4 that rock your socks off. Seeing fiber art in person is always better than on a screen or a printed page. You’ll see a lot of abstracts, things that you feel like you’ve seen before. There was a lot of hand stitching this year. The food at the opening was great and so were the people. I love meeting artists. Someone told me this was “the best Visions show they’d ever seen.” Um. Not for me. I’ve seen more exciting and interesting shows…I’m thinking of I think it was the last one at the Oceanside Museum of Art, with the huge pieces they could hang there. It had a wide variety of work from abstracts to calm landscapes to bright and vibrating florals. It rocked my world. This one? Eh. Go for the few pieces that make you happy.