“Insecurity: An Installation by Julie John Upshaw” at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles – Pointer to Review on Metroactive, The Arts in San Jose

August 24, 2006

A review of Julie John Upshaw’s installation titled “Insecurity” at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles can be found on Metroactive – The Arts in San Jose.


An excerpt reads: “BY NOW, the ritual of security clearance at the airport has become second nature. The traveler passes through an electronic portal to the limbo of the departure lounge. In an edgy installation called Insecurity at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Julie John Upshaw ups the anxiety level of that common experience.”

Through October 1, 2006

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

520 S. First Street • San Jose CA 95113


“Quilts for Change” – August 10-12, Cincinnati, OH

August 16, 2006

review by Kathleen Loomis
(Note: The author had two quilts juried into the main Quilts for Change show.)

Judged by Carolyn Mazloomi (art) and Donna McDade (traditional)

Quilts for Change is a biennial, first held in 2004 and again this year. The sponsor is the Zonta Club of Cincinnati, a women’s service organization whose mission focuses on the elimination of violence against women. Although not a requirement for entry, the theme was featured prominently in publicizing the show. It attracted a significant number of quilts about women and abuse or self-esteem, along with other subjects of social protest such as guns and war — dark emotions rarely found at quilt shows but exciting to see here.

Although art quilts were the great majority of the 138 juried entries, three times as many prizes were given to traditional quilts. Despite its prevalence, none of the social-protest work received a prize. Prizes were awarded in three categories of traditional quilts (applique, pieced and other), but art quilts constituted a single category. It’s hard to know why the organizers decided upon this disproportionate allocation of prize money. The 2004 show was notable for the number and quality of art quilts, the show poster (by Susan Shie) was clearly an art quilt, and the lack of a minimum size for entries was art-quilt-friendly.

It was frustrating to try to understand the judges’ choices. Quilts were neither labeled nor grouped by categories, and in fact entrants did not even specify which category their quilts fell into. If you wanted to see, for instance, which quilts were judged against yours in the “traditional/ other” category, the only way was to walk around the exhibit, inspect each quilt and try to decide whether it fell into that category.

Two years ago show goers were frustrated by the hanging of the show – even the tiniest quilts were hung with their tops eight feet above the ground — and with the difficulty of finding their way around the show. If you saw a quilt described in the catalog and wanted to see it, there was no way to figure out where it was hung. And if you saw a quilt on the wall and wanted to read the statement, there was no way to find it in the catalog. This year saw great improvement on the first count, with small quilts (many entries were quite small) hung at eye level, but the catalog and exhibit map were still difficult to figure out.

Other than the many social-protest themed quilts, it was hard to spot any noteworthy trends – a refreshing change from some shows that inadvertently showcase quilt-fad-of-the-week. There seemed to be less embellishment on view than typically seen among art quilts, somewhat less use of phototransfer, hardly any Angelina fibers. The critical viewer could not but notice how many quilts on display lacked value contrast and seemed to have little thought for composition.

Quilts that caught my eye included Sandra Woock’s three whole-cloth works using the motif of the pointed crown on the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Sings the Blues Taking Liberties II Taking Liberties II

Sandra L.H. Woock: Lady Sings the Blues, Taking Liberties II, Taking Liberties

Shelley Baird’s twin quilts, “Bruises” and “Burns,” were striking for their sound composition and the contrast of pretty colors with disturbing photos and text about abused women.

Burns Bruises

Shelly Baird: Burns, Bruises

Ellen Zak Danforth had a new and pleasant twist on the old-necktie quilt, with pairs of unmatched tie ends emerging from the pieced surface to be looped or tied together.

Two special traveling exhibits were on display. Artquilts Images, a juried show from PAQA South, showed photo images in quilts. The 26 works had a wide range of approaches to photos, from actual paper photographs to many different ways of transferring images to fabric. Artistically, the exhibit was a success, with several striking quilts. Especially pleasing were Cheryl Lynch’s small 3-D quilt of Christo’s gates, with orange fabric billowing out from a pale gray-tone photo of Central Park, and Janine LeBlanc’s antiwar quilt with a long yellow ribbon, “bloodstained” with red hand stitching, trailing onto the floor.

anti-war quilt

Janine LeBlanc: Yellow Ribbon

Visual Voice, a show curated by Keisha Roberts, was less successful. From the impenetrable explanatory text (“artists interrogate silence”) it was difficult to figure out the unifying theme behind the exhibit. Some of the text seemed to imply the use of text or communication; some pointed toward cultural and national identity. The 37 quilts were all over the lot and the exhibit would have been far more satisfying at half the size.

In particular, one artist, Karina Abdusamad, had nine works in the show! Two were striking, panels of many different white fabrics in decreasing size, each fabric with a hole in it. The works showed up particularly well against the black drapes of the show (by contrast, many black quilts in the show almost disappeared into the drapery). But Abdusamad’s other quilts appeared to be early work, heavy-handed in its ethnic imagery and technically disappointing. They should have been left at home.

The exhibit also included five of Angela Moll’s “Secret Diary” quilts. Each one is a masterpiece, with its almost-readable handwritten text hinting at the writer’s fraught life, but one or two would have been even more exciting than all five. Other quilts in the exhibit showed a puzzling juxtaposition of Afro-ethnic themes and fabrics, beaded works, and handsome abstractions, both pieced and dyed.

Although the show had all the amenities a visitor could want – convenient parking, comfortable classrooms, wide aisles, good lighting, cheerful attendants, scads of door prizes — there were unhappily very few people in attendance. Vendors were disappointed if not overly rebellious over the low turnout, and several workshops had to be cancelled for insufficient registration. Apparently the workshops were not advertised at all in print media, and the newspaper ad on the last day of the show gave incorrect hours. Exhibitors were given two free tickets to give to friends, but not told that the tickets were going to be available until they showed up (friendless) at the door. A lot of wrinkles still need to be ironed out if the third show is to be a success.

Lowell – Art Quilts at the Whistler III

August 14, 2006

Review by Sandy Donabed
One of 4 reviews by Ms. Donabed of the Lowell Quilt Festival.

“Art Quilts at the Whistler III”, juried by Robin Daniels and Beverly Fine displays 38 quilts from 18 states focused on “fine craftsmanship and visual design transcending traditional patterns and functionality” (taken from the exhibit brochure). It was interesting that Elizabeth Poole received Best in Show award for her pieced and stitched torso, this one close to life size, titled “Ozymandias”. Nancy Crasco had two pieces hung in this show- but of particular interest was a diaphanous kimono shape with golden maple seedlings caught between its layers. This on was called “Caribbean Caftan”. Both women also had two pieces in the Small Works show, reviewed here.

Elizabeth Poole, Melani Kane Brewer

On the whole, the work displayed at the Whistler Museum was more mature in nature, the pieces and ideas more fully realized. Barbara Triton displayed her “Brooklyn Bench”, a smaller piece including digital images of her photograph, dyes, fabric and organza. Right next to Triton’s was a piece by Deborah Gregory titled “Verde” where a discharged and dyed piece of cotton is heavily machine embroidered with stitching forming a net design. Both works showed restraint and confident mastery.


Deborah Gregory, Barbara Jade Triton

And finally, a very quiet presence in a corner, was Leesa Gawlik’s “Rice Field”. It contained a sophisticated color scheme of warm neutrals with a simple repeated linear design across the sheen of the silk surface. All the fabrics were hand dyed using natural materials, stencils, paste resists, and over painting. Even the deceptively simple pieces were complex in their structures and techniques. Her other exhibited piece received one of the judges awards.

Whistler 2

Leesa Gawlik, Nancy Crasco, Petra Voetgle

The Whistler House Museum of Art, 243 Worthen St., Lowell, MA 978-452-7641, http://www.whistlerhouse.org, “Art Quilts at the Whistler III”, through August 31, Wed- Sat, 11-4

Lowell – Small Works at the Ayers Loft

August 14, 2006

Review by Sandy Donabed
One of 4 reviews by Ms. Donabed of the Lowell Quilt Festival.
(Note: The author had a piece in this show and also helped hang it.)

The Ayer Lofts Gallery hosted the show, “Small Works’, a exhibition juried by painter Gay Tracy, sculptor Steve Syverson, and fiber artist Maxine Farkas. The show represents pieces smaller than 11″ x 17” by 24 artists from 275 submissions. Instead of slides, the jurors worked with scans and color copies so they could inspect and arrange the show in actual size, an approach only possible with such small pieces. Overall, the participants should learn about good presentation as some of the hanging devices were out of scale to the work- this is simply remedied by trying out the hanging mechanism before sending it to a show, so hopefully a lesson has been learned and next year’s entrants will supply proper mechanisms. Several notable pieces included two figure studies machine embroidered by Elizabeth Poole. Poole is interested in planes and forms of the body and has exaggerated the values to create a feeling of mystery and repose. Her pieces are titled, “Study in Agates” and “Study in Moonlight”.

Also represented by two pieces is Nancy Crasco who entered her own digital photographs of walls taken while visiting various concentration camps in eastern Europe. Though only postcard sized, Crasco’s hand embroidery traces images that echo the horrors of the camps.

Small Works 2

Nancy Crasco

“Notes” is a vertical piece by Linda Colsh of Belgium, and the image chosen for the “Small Works” postcard. As a painted collage, it includes musical scores, images of statuary, and a freehand diagonal scrawl, maybe tracing a conductor’s hand, that unites the disparate images together.

Another compelling image came from Els Verezcken, “Clement”. This piece was done in the tradition of a faced quilt, printed face images on cotton and traced all around with brightly colored machine stitches. We want to know more about Clement, even though this is a quiet piece.

Small Works

Els Verezcken

Ayer Lofts Art Gallery, 172 Middle St., Lowell, MA 978-458-4200, http://www.ayerlofts.com, “Small Works”, call for gallery hours

Lowell – Art Quilts New England/New York at the Brush

August 14, 2006

Review by Sandy Donabed
One of 4 reviews by Ms. Donabed of the Lowell Quilt Festival.

Located in the Brush Art Gallery and Studios, “Art Quilts: New England/New York 2006”, is an exhibit organized by E. Linda Poras and juried by Rhoda Cohen and Esterita Austin. This show was all about surface design- every piece seemed to display some combination of dyeing, painting, printing, manipulation, fusing, transparencies, stamping, felting, knitting and crochet, couching, or free motion embroidery. Some pieces were more successful than others, but we found that Rosemary Hoffenberg’s two pieces called us back for second looks. She had two small pieces, “Middle Earth” (a monoprint with dyeing and block printing) and “For Ray” (discharge dyeing and shibori), displayed next to each other with quiet dignity.


Rosemary Hoffenberg

Liese Bronfenbrenner included her experimental work with handmade papers, dried hosta leaves, raffia, wool, and hand binding and stitching titled “Quilt for a Woodland Elf”, certainly breaking with the quilt tradition.

Brush 2

Liese Bronfenbrenner

Standing out for it’s great presentation was Karen McCarthy’s “Deliberate Wanderings #5”, a small piece using hand printed paste papers, printing, disperse dyes, transfer printing and gelatin prints. Using muted but clear colors, this texture study depicted aging wall frescoes, with machine stitching through the printed papers and around the edges. The whole piece had been mounted on a simple painted stretched canvas holding it out from the wall and seeming to float the work. This was a great example of “less is more”.

Brush 3

Karen McCarthy

Brush Art Gallery and Studios, 256 Market St., Lowell, MA, http://www.thebrush.org, ‘Art Quilts: New England/New York 2006’, through Oct. 29, 2006

Lowell – Quilt National at the Textile Museum

August 14, 2006

Reviewed by Sandy Donabed
One of 4 reviews by Ms. Donabed of the Lowell Quilt Festival.

The first show was at the American Textile History Museum, a building now completely under construction as they sell off lofts in their upper floors. One exhibit was a traveling section of Quilt National 05, and I do have to note the impact entering the rooms because the walls had been painted vibrant colors to compliment the quilts. The colors simply bounced around the room, reflecting one quilt then another, making it hard to view each one in order because of the color dialogue through the rooms. The view around every corner was a treat.

Quilt National 1

Installation shot

The trends in QN seemed to be wide format digital printing and hand dyed and manipulated fabrics, so Susan Else’s multi-figured sculpture, “Bingo”, displayed in a glass case, was surprising. The figures were covered in traditional patchwork in miniature as were the picnic table where they sat with their snacks and game pieces. Various exaggerated poses on each figure enhanced the wit of the piece.

Quilt National 2

June Underwood (wall), Susan Else

Miriam Nathan Roberts’ “Untitled” was printed in large scale on crepe de chine from her own digital images. She then did metallic machine stitching to bring the images of mysterious round yellow wrapped objects forward, appearing as she saw them in a Japanese display. The formality of design harkens back to the the familiar grid format while the joyous saturated color was a standout even on a bright yellow wall.

Quilt National 3

Miriam Nathan-Roberts

Another piece of note was by Patricia Mink, “Wall Quilt #25”. Mink printed her photograph of a wall in Cordoba on linen, again as a whole cloth. She then did stitching on the wall to emphasize the crumbling texture and peeling paint age reveals. Without knowing it was a photograph of a wall, the quilt was seen as a successful abstract design.

American Textile History Museum, 491 Dutton St., Lowell, MA (978) 441-0400, http://www.athm.org The Quilt National 2005 collection will be there until Sept. 3. (call first to check open hours- they are on a reduced schedule)

Lowell – Four Reviews by Sandy Donabed

August 14, 2006

Today I went to the quilt shows still open in Lowell, or at least some of them, with a friend whose eye I trust. But that proved to be odd since we disagreed on practically every piece of art so we finally entered each space and split up only to reconvene on the sidewalk or back in the car. I would highly recommend traveling this way to shows because what one of us missed, the other would pick up. When one of us had an issue with some aspect of a show, the other would provide mitigating excuses or explanations.

That said, we noticed that there were two distinct paths apparent in all the shows we attended- there were both mature pieces of art with elegant workmanship as opposed to the more scattered and frivolous experimental work that needs more time to evolve. Through all the shows visited we also noted some serious problems with presentation and finishing techniques, simple steps available to all that really elevate one’s work. The thing about presentation is that when it’s good, no one notices, but when it’s bad, everyone does. In the quilt world it has been long required to add a sleeve and provide a hanging device, directions for both can be found in many books and on the internet so it was hard to understand seeing sticks poking out the sleeve ends, tucks in the quilt tops, floppy top edges, or large bumps because of improper choice of hanging stick. We tried to figure out a way to not discuss this in a review but at one point it was overwhelming, with problems apparent in so much of the work hung.