04 August 2017

Circular Abstractions: Bulls-Eye Quilts at the Fuller Craft Museum

Sue Ritter Milling, Ole.

The Fuller Craft Museum, in Brockton, Massachusetts, hosted an exhibit of 25 quilts, selected from a larger show curated by Nancy Crow.  An invitational show, Ms. Crow asked over 40 of her students and colleagues to consider the Bull's Eye quilt; the exhibit is on display from May 13, 2017, through October 22, 2017. 

Ms. Crow interprets this traditional design very broadly, as a four-quadrant composition featuring circular motifs.  The exhibit is something like a workshop pin-up; many of the quilts selected for the Fuller show are similar in design and color.  Some of the more interesting works move beyond the restrictions of a four-block design, which, despite the circular motion inherent in the curved piecing, can end up being rather static.

Exhibit entrance.

Kerri Green, Sunshine.

In her quilt Sunshine, Ms. Green electrifies the "four quadrant" stricture by introducing incomplete circles and playing with figure-ground relationship; the jagged-edge black diamonds vibrate between the circle segments.

Sunshine, detail.

Susan K. Willen, Off-Target.

Ms. Willen uses hand-dyed, as well as commercially dyed fabrics, in Off-Target, adding texture and interest to her work. Few, if any, of the quilts used commercial prints; for some reason many folks in the "art quilt" movement use solid or hand-dyed fabrics exclusively.

Valerie Maser-Flanagan, Growth Rings #1.

A limited color palette - basically orange, blue, brown - wisely deployed in a sequence of gradient values gives Ms. Flanagan's tight composition a lot of impact.  The quilt below, Twister by Marina Baudoin, introduces a fifth block imposed on the quadrant. The black and off-white slashes do, indeed, twist, and even shout.

Marina Baudoin, Twister.

Catherine Beard, The New Whirled.

The colors in the quilts above and below are quite different but both quilts rely on high contrast: black, white and red in The New Whirled and charcoal gray and muted tones in Discharging the Bull.  Ms. Costley hand-dyed over 100 fabrics then selectively removed dyed from many of them, a process known as discharge, for use in this quilt.

Cheryl Costley, Discharging the Bull.

In the gallery.

Gael O'Donnell, Fallen.

Circles are stretched into ovals, and offset, in the quilt above.  The piecing pattern of thin vertical segments through the oval centers makes an effective design celebrating two hues, purple and orange.  The bull's-eye motif becomes even more vestigial in the quilt below which, with typography and color, suggests a narrative without being too literal.

Carol Hazen, Danger - Wrong Way.

Finally, the bull's-eyes become atomized - reduced to miniature size - and grouped in arcs of color in Outrageous Cells, a study in the effect of disruption on pattern.

Nancy Cordy, Outrageous Cells.

Outrageous Cells, detail.

All of the quilts can be seen in the catalog, ISBN 9780985297251.

28 July 2017

Delectable Mountain fabrics, Brattleboro, Vermont

Delectable Mountain Cloth sign in window display.

An errand brought my husband and I to southern Vermont a few weeks ago; we revisited a favorite store in Brattleboro.  "Store" doesn't quite convey the immersive experience at Delectable Mountain Cloth, where the shopper is enveloped, and practically swaddled by, bolts, bundles, and rolls of luxury fibers, all  murmuring "touch me."

Owner - really, curator - Jan Norris has been sourcing the finest in silks, velvets, linens and cottons for 35 years.  Wares are displayed beautifully in a profusion of baskets and pressed glass dishes, which are in turn deployed on doilies or glimmering mirrored trays.  There's a theatrical quality to the displays, which is fitting as these fabrics are ready to make an entrance once transformed into special garments and adornments.

Bundles of fabrics in creamy tones.

Pearly buttons.

This store is an amazing resource; worth a special trip if you find yourself within striking distance.  Jan also stocks buttons of all descriptions, scarves made from her fabrics, and fun jewelry. 

Jan Norris (foreground) and assistant.

Buttons in my favorite colors - violet and lavender.

Silks are a specialty.

The quilt in the background is by Jan, who is also a talented artist.

A delightful display of special textiles.

12 June 2017

Laura Petrovich-Cheney wooden quilts

Four Play.

Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm of the 2012 hurricane season, left many shore-line New Jersey and New York houses in ruins; piles of debris were everywhere.  The home of artist and quilt-lover Laura Petrovich-Cheney was damaged and her family's summer home was destroyed.

Ms. Petrovich-Cheney found a way of processing the loss of so many homes.  She repurposed storm debris - bits and pieces whose small size belied the weight of memories embedded within them - into a series of "wooden quilts".  Five of her sculptures are on display in the exhibit What Remains: Wooden Quilt Sculptures of Laura Petrovich-Cheney at the  Fuller Craft Museum from Oct. 22, 2016 - Nov. 12, 2017.

In the Thick of It.

Ms. Petrovich-Cheney's work is also featured in the June/July 2017 issue (#87) of Quilting Arts magazine.  In the article, which has additional images from the series and of work in progress, she writes:
Each piece of wood collected carried with it the promise of reinvention.  The salvaged wood became the major source for the wooden quilt series.  I often had the opportunity to talk to the homeowners who told me about their home's history and also shared their memories and sorrows of losing everything.

Big Deal.

I believe that material has memory.  Sometimes, I just picked through the piles of trash and I wondered about the wood's former  life as a little girl's dresser - or a kitchen cabinet that held cherished china.  The intimate textures of this wood, with its chipped layers of paint, nail holes, and grain, tell a story and suggest a prior life in the faded colors and worn surfaces.  The wood was weathered, exposed, and open to new possibilities.


Five "wooden quilts" on display.

Ms. Petrovich-Cheney has master's degrees in both fashion design and fine arts and grew up in a community of women who stitched and quilted.  She describes her research:
Quilt patterns were an important inspiration for this work.  I found inspiration in the American ideal of pioneer women's can-do, resilient spirit and instinct for survival.  I learned that these women crafted quilts for warmth and comfort with scraps of cloth-scraps into which they breathed new life and new purpose.  I studied quilt patterns from early pioneer days, the Civil War, Gee's Bend, Amish, southern quilts.  In particular, I was drawn to women quilters whose lives were largely ignored by history, even while their handiwork transcended race, religion and culture.  Most importantly, the idea of comfort from a quilt inspired me.

Off of Center.

23 May 2017

Henri Matisse, textile collector

Matisse in front of window screen, source: http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/matisse-in-the-studio.

Over the week-end DH, son and I viewed Matisse in the Studio at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on view from 9 April 2017 until 9 July 2017. The exhibit pairs actual objects collected by Matisse - vases, African sculpture, small tables, etc. - with paintings and other works featuring, or inspired by, the objects.  Images from the exhibit can be seen in reviews in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe.  For me the highlight was the North African window screens Matisse acquired during his trips to Morocco and which informed his work.

Window screen, maker unknown, North Africa, 19th - early 20th c.

This type of North African textile is called a haiti; these luxury products were made by professional male needleworkers for wealthy clients.   Layered cloth is cut and edged; the geometric designs recall carved wood and stone window screens. Interestingly, the Indianapolis Museum of Art has a collection of these and other Moroccan textiles, purchased by Indiana native Admiral Albert P. Niblack when he was stationed in Gibraltar beginning in 1917.  The Niblack family later bequeathed thousands of Moroccan, European and Indonesian textiles to the museum.  

Fabric window screen, detail.

Fabric window screen, detail.

Another window screen  is paired with a painting of two women in a space which isn't so much a room as a cocoon of textiles.  The window screen in the painting is in the exhibit.  A note on the painting title - the term moorish is now viewed as part of the vocabulary of orientalism, or the Western world's patronizing, romanticized way of viewing the Maghreb region of North African and other non-Western cultures. 

The Moorish Screen, 1921.

Window screen, maker unknown, late 19th - early 20th c.

Window screen, detail.

Gallery view.

Finally, one of Matisse's great late still life paintings, Interior with Egyptian Canvas, created in 1948, hangs next to the tent hanging depicted in the still life.  I missed the 2005 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum on Matisse and his textiles, so was happy to have this glimpse in Boston.

02 May 2017

Fleeced (in a good way) at Gore Place

Waiting to be sheared.

If, like me, you enjoyed the movie "Babe" you would probably like the annual Sheep-Shearing festival at historic Gore Place, the home of the 8th governor of Massachusetts, Christopher Gore (1758-1827), and his wife Rebecca, who was largely responsible for the design and planning of their mansion.

The well-attended festival featured vendors of art, fiber and food, costumed interpreters, music and dance performances, herding dog demonstrations and, of course, the shearing of the resident flock of merino sheep.  Although I currently have a yarn-buying moratorium, of the many yarn and roving vendors on site I was particularly taken with the offerings of Sonder yarns and River Valley Farm -  lovely textures and colors.  Both of these vendors plan to attend the upcoming 2017 Fiber Festival in western Massachusetts.


Carding and spinning demo.

Yarn and other items for sale.

Hooking a rug.

"Try before you buy" loom opportunity.

Alpacas - very soft.

But of course the main attraction is the shearing of the sheep - accomplished with manual, not electric, sheep shears.  Adult sheep are on one side of the holding area, with older lambs across the way. Hence, lots of bleating and baa-ing as ewes and lambs anxiously called to each other.

Foreground - ewes and rams; older lambs in the distance.

Skilled shearer at work.

Handling sheep and shears, in front of an audience.

Two lambs too young to be separated from Mom.

16 April 2017

Quilts by Sandy Gregg and Valerie Maser-Flanagan

Channeling Ernst Haeckel #2, detail.

The Newton Free Library hosts a monthly exhibit in the gallery, highlighting the work of local artist(s) or organizations such as the Newton Camera Club. The month of April brought Color, Line and Shape in Fiber, twenty-three works by local textile artists Sandy Gregg and Valerie Maser-Flanagan

Channeling Ernst Haeckel #2, Sandy Gregg.

You don't need to know that Ernst Haeckel, 19th-century zoologist, discovered many microscopic species to enjoy the movement and color of Sandy's homage. According to the hand-out at the gallery:

A retired college administrator, Sandy Gregg began making bed quilts and quilts for the wall in the 1970s.  At the beginning it was a hobby, but in retirement has turned into a full-time obsession.  Sandy uses a wide variety of surface design and other experimental techniques with paint, dye and non-traditional materials on cloth to create collage-like paintings that are quilted.

Riverbed, Valerie Maser-Flanagan.

Valerie Maser-Flanagan also finds inspiration in the natural world; lines of quilting echo the pieced seams in her composition, evoking ripples, currents and the sculpted edges carved by flowing water.  More about Valerie, again from the exhibit information:

Valerie began as a traditional quilt maker but became interested in creating original designs.  In 2009 she began her studies with Nancy Crow, a renowned artist.  This experience changed Valerie's approach to design.  Two important changes were to use hand dyed solid fabric instead of commercial prints and to focus on the lines created in the piecing process as integral to the design of the composition.

Riverbed, detail.

Cracks in the System, Sandy Gregg.

Sandy also quilts her objects heavily to make multi-layered works that seem to have accumulated and coalesced over time. Her designs often feature letters and numbers, and remind me of the strata of graffiti and handbills accreted on urban walls. 

Whispers of the Past #3, Sandy Gregg.

The contrast between the work of Sandy and Valerie strengthens the impact of each artist's oeuvre, and the exhibit is hence more interesting than a solo show.  The two quilters have known each other for some time:

Sandy and Valerie first met in a class taught by Nancy Crow at the Fuller Museum in 2009.  They use different methods to create art that is made out of fabric and is stitched.  Valerie freely cuts lines and shapes out of her hand-dyed fabric, composes on a design wall and then stitches the pieces to make improvisational compositions.  Sandy most often applies paint and dye to a whole piece of fabric which is treated like a painter's canvas.  Both artists are working in fiber and mix dyes and paints from primary colors as a painter might.  Their focus is on the principles of line and shape in their compositions.

Chrysalises #3, Valerie Maser-Flanagan.

Three Figures, Valerie Maser-Flanagan.

Channeling Ernst Haeckel #3, Sandy Gregg.

Channeling Ernst Haeckel #3, detail.