29 March 2017

Focus on the quilts of Carol Anne Grotrian

Carol Anne Grotrian, Acadia Morning, 1999, detail.

On a recent rainy Saturday I travelled to the New England Quilt Museum to hear a lecture, Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion and Its Legacy, given by independent scholar and curator Lynne Zacek Bassett. This well-attended and excellent talk drew from an exhibit Ms. Bassett developed for the Wadsworth Athenaeum in 2016. The exhibit was quite popular, and the accompanying catalog appears to be something of a collector's item. 

New England Quilt Museum.

While waiting for the lecture to begin, I took in The Quilted Canvas: The Crit Group - 30 Years and Still Quilting, an exhibit featuring several fiber artists, most of whom are in my quilt guild.  The show provided a sort of retrospective of one group member in particular, Carol Anne Grotrian, an artist with whom I have studied and whose work I admire very much.

Lacrimosa Gloriae, 1988.

Ms. Grotrian, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been dyeing her own fabrics for some time; the quilt above, pieced from hand-dyed material, interprets two musical passages from Mozart's Requiem.  She successfully manipulates color values to represent light and shadow and the radiating lines of hand-quilting reinforce the illusion of depth and distance.

Truro, 1991.

One of the surface design techniques, or methods for creating pattern and imagery on fabrics, which Ms. Grotrian has explored is shibori.  In this traditional Japanese craft, cloth is deliberately tied or stitched, and subsequently dyed; the manipulated areas resist the dye, resulting in interesting patterns when the stitching is removed.

Truro, detail.

The art quilt Truro, now on a private collection, was one of Ms. Grotrian's first landscape quilts.  The "aha" moment leading to this work occurred when the husband of a Crit Group member suggested that Ms. Grotrian not cut her shibori fabrics into small pieces but utilize larger segments in a more painterly way.

Rachel Carson Pond, 2003.

Hence, her later quilts feature more applique and whole cloth techniques, rather than geometric piecing. She also began creating potato dextrin resist-printed fabrics, obtaining a crackle design so suggestive of a pebbly New England salt water pond beach.

Rachel Carson Pond, detail.

Some of works, including the two quilts below, feature cloth colored solely using indigo dye, with linear and curved shibori patterns carefully cut and placed to capture the movement of surging waves and water spray.

Time is as Weak as Water, 2005.

In Four of the Five Seasons, each panel features the Japanese character for one of the four seasons also recognized in the West; in Japan the New Year is considered a season too.  Here the movement of the shibori patterns and imagery is reinforced with bold hand-stitching.

Four of the Five Seasons, 2008.

Four of the Five Seasons, detail.

When Ms. Grotrian was teaching in Vancouver, Washington, her visit to a local waterfall inspired a tall, narrow quilt featuring hand-dyed fabrics and raw-edge applique.

Latourell Falls, 2013.

Ms. Grotrian also used raw-edge applique in her evocation of the Jones River, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In raw-edge applique, the cut edges of the fabric are not hemmed.  The natural tendency of the fabric is to fray slightly, thus revealing a bit of other fabrics below or adjacent. This blurring of boundaries can be very effective in landscape quilts, echoing the sometimes ambiguous delineations between water and sand, rock and shadow, object and reflection.

Incoming Tide, Jones River, 2014.

Incoming Tide, Jones River, detail.