Fiber Revolution: A Survey of Styles

Fiber Revolution: A Survey of Styles
October 3 – 31, 2006

M. Christina Geis Gallery
Georgian Court University
Lakewood, NJ

Reviewed by Joanie San Chirico

In this “Survey of Styles,” 25 of the 35 member Fiber Revolution group showcase their work in a non-juried, non-curated setting.Since the members send in whatever work is available, the lack of curatorial direction leads to a lack of cohesiveness. Fiber Revolution has saturated the North East with their exhibits. Since many of the same pieces are shown at different venues, perhaps a change of procedure is in order, to concentrate on producing higher quality exhibits rather than large quantities of exhibits.

One of the more interesting works is Kevan Lunney’s green/brown/purple “Pod”. It brings to mind Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors, an apt subject this week before Halloween. The construction is ingenious and impeccable, using Velcro and zippers, making it possible to change the configuration at each venue. The work is quite large, standing over 4 feet tall and at least 3 feet wide. The presentation is well done, letting the viewer walk around the piece in order to see the surprise in the middle, which would have been more effective in a color other than bubblegum pink, possibly a deep blood red. The artificiality of the pink color detracts from the visceral and organic feel of the piece.

Pod Pod detail

Kevan Lunney – Pod – Pod detail

“Undercurrents” by Eileen Lauterborn uses tiny 1/8″ to 1/4″ strips of commercial fabric to depict an impression of static. Closer inspection shows unreadable hidden text under the static, perhaps an unexpected secret code masquerading under the colorful strips? The piece, despite its pretty colors, expresses the possibility of an unsettling message hiding just beneath the surface.

StaticStatic detail

Eileen Lauterborn – Undercurrents – Undercurrents detail

Lisa Chipentine’s piece, “A Sliver of Hope”, constructed in a crazy quilt-like format of rich, sensual silks and velvets offers a “tranquil softness” as one of the visitors to the exhibit aptly expresses in the group’s book in which patrons write their opinions about the exhibit and the work.

A Sliver of Hope

Lisa Chipetine – A Sliver of Hope

Judy Cuddihee abandons her usual theme of sexual imagery for this exhibit, and her “Meditation” piece is not as successful as some of the work that she has done in the past, in particular her “Release” series, which titillates the viewer into asking “Why?”


Judy Cuddihee – Meditation

In “Victory”, Antoinette Hall uses a mud cloth large “V” shape as a central figure on a black background, hand quilted much like an Amish-type traditional quilt. The meaning of the piece is elusive, and the mud cloth is incongruous with the background.


Antoinette Hall – Victory

Fiber Revolution claims to be producing cutting edge work. However, much of the work in this show is dated and on the verge of trite; Barbara McKie’s work “Autumn in New England” comes to mind. The picture-postcard autumnal scenes are reminiscent of 1950’s wallpaper, which may not have been her intent. The members seem to be focusing on prettiness and a riot of colors and losing sight of content in the process. The result is the marginalization of the quilt as art.

Autumn in New England

Barbara Barrick McKie – Autumn in New England

On the whole, the exhibit is too crowded and the pegboard hanging system extremely distracting. In fact, since Gloria Hansen’s piece “Colorfields II” is mounted on smoke colored Plexiglas, the pegboard is visible through her framing system.

Colorfields II

Gloria Hansen – Colorfields II

The show would have been more successful with smaller work, perhaps hung on a “horizon line” around the room. Such disparate subjects as jumbled computer parts, jelly fish, frogs, and Madonnas make for a very chaotic exhibit, which seems to serve chiefly for the purpose of adding a line to the resumes of the exhibitors.

A proliferation of mediocre work does nothing to promote the Fiber Revolution group’s mission statement of “educating the public about fiber art as an exciting art form.”

An installation shot of the exhibit can be seen on the Fiber Revolution website here.

52 Responses to Fiber Revolution: A Survey of Styles

  1. Lisa Call says:

    Very thought provoking review.

    I’ve posted some thoughts about this review on my blog here:

  2. A refreshingly honest and brass tacks review. I’m signing up to read future posts!

  3. Michele says:

    How wonderful to see a candid review.

    I do think over-saturation and group member “anything goes” shows are a problem that affects the credibility of fiber as serious art. Too many shows by the same people showing the same work repeatedly does nothing to promote the work or the artists. Better to curate cohesive exhibits and seek out venues where the work can be showcased at its best. Unfortunately too many art quilters are settling for coffee shop, library, and other unsuitable venues to display their art, which to me cheapens it. The pegboard seems to be a particulary inappropriate dissplay site. Might be better to be more selective about both the venues and the work than to show at every possible opportunity?

  4. Gerrie says:

    I am so thrilled to see this honest review of a fiber art show. Good job, Joanie. I was particularly intrigued with the comparison of the number of shows attempted and the quality of the work. I think this is a very valid judgement.

  5. michelle says:

    it was so refreshing to see such an honest review. I totally agree with the taking any work available and putting it together just for the sake of putting on a show, does no justice to the art or the artists.

    If anything that is available is hung as a show, then not much thought is given to how you wish to present fiber to the world. It appears to me that we all want to be taken seriously as artists, we want fiber to be an acceptable form of fine art, whats so fine about anything hanging in a room on pegboard?????

    great review!!!

  6. Holly says:

    I am just curious why we are so picky sometimes. There aren’t many venues where one can exhibit one’s art. Some shows are juried and are tough to get into. Others’ purposes are to display work for sale (I’m thinking along the lines of arts/crafts shows). I guess I’m in the minority when I say I don’t care, or even necessarily notice, if pieces are hung too close together, or don’t make for a cohesive show. The more the merrier, and the more variety the better, for me. Why are we so picky over having the perfect space between artwork, the perfect lighting, the perfect stands, etc.? Understandable if the exhibits are trying to educate the public about quilts as art, but at the same time, do non-artists notice things like this? Or are they there just to enjoy the work? If we could only exhibit our work in “perfect” places, imagine how even more limited our options would be.

    I’m also located in the northeast, and yet cannot say I’ve ever seen a Fiber Revolution exhibit, so to me, they are not oversaturating the market if I haven’t been to one yet. Also, we art quilters might travel from show to show and thus wind up seeing some of the same pieces over and over. But the public may not be in that boat. What someone sees in one location, that’s also exhibited in 5 other places over the next year or two, may never be seen again by that one member of the general public.

  7. BJ says:

    Great critical eye Joanie! Specific examples are worth a hundred words. Too bad most judges lack your vision or we would be moving toward the “quilt as art”, it seems an uphill battle.

  8. Linda says:

    Promotion of your ART by placing it in the best possible light is not being picky, it’s being proactive in doing the best job you can to see that your work is showcased favoribly. How are we promoting the art form and trying to validate ourselves as artists if we’ll willing to just slap it up anywhere that will give us space? Unless that is the message you want to promote. Any quilts, any where. However, if I want to see jumbles of quilts, I can go to any local quilt show or county fair. That is not what I expect to find in a gallery space. I expect more and frankly so should anybody serious about promoting their work as art.

    Group shows are inherently more difficult to make into a cohesive viewing but I agree that by not having the show juried or curated, that task is impossible.

  9. PaMdora says:

    Thanks for an honest review Joanie, it takes guts to do this. Being in an art quilt group that has decided to limit membership, I wonder if some of the problems that Fiber Revolution seems to be experiencing is a result of the size or stucture of the group. They’ve got a great name though, lol!

  10. Cindi says:

    Wonderful review, Joanie. So refreshing to move beyond the typical support-group-speak politically correct reviews we usually see into honest, thoughtful critical review. Another step forward for the world of quilted art.

    Thank you.

  11. Michele says:

    to comment on Holly’s comment:
    Yes, art should be shown as art and the display does affect the public’s perception of it as art. Go to any craft fair of church bazaar and folks value work at yard sale prices. Go to a nice gallery (doesn’t matter if it’s a museum, commercila gallery, art center, whatever – as long as the focus is real art, properly presented) and the perceived value is MUCH greater.
    The question is, does this group want to be taken seriously as artists, or do they want to be cnsidered crafters. Whatevenr the answer, seek out the appropriate venues. Sometimes not showing is better than showing poorly.

    PaMdora said “they’ve got a great name”.
    I agree, great name, but I will add they ought to live up to it by showing new work (or even revolutionary as their name implies) and striving for excellence in presentation. A poor show reflects poorly on the collective and diminishes their impact. This kind of exhibit does not do the art quilt movement or community justice and may in fact only reinforce the stereotypes.

    In a medium that is struggling to be taken seriously I would submit that it is the respnsibility of all involved artists and groups to make sure that when they show, they do so in the best possible way.

  12. Pat D says:

    The message below was sent to the Fiber Revolution membership following the above critique. It was suggested I post it here, as well.
    As the curator (non-curator?!) for this exhibit, I found Joanie’s comments to be very helpful. I think I learned a lot – things perhaps I should have known about curating, but did not. Many of my own gut reactions to this process were validated, not only by Joanie but also by Dr. Geraldine Velazquez’s review, which will be seen in the next SAQA journal.

    Actually, it wasn’t a bad critique – and says much the same things as Geraldine does in her review. Since I’m still new at all of this, I think I have learned some valuable lessons.

    1. I should have gone with my gut and selected a theme or subject, but I didn’t because I got the venue from Kevan and hadn’t yet seen other FR exhibits that were “cohesive” by way of theme/style/color/etc. (And I shudder at what has been submitted to the AQS Museum in Paducah on behalf of FR… I should have chosen a strong theme there, as well.)

    2. I should have had the courage to remove those quilts that were not up to par with the quality of work we wish to bring to the public. However, I don’t believe this is done by anyone in the group – not publically anyway.

    3. When establishing the number of pieces, I was thinking about educating the art students at GCU and therefore wanted lots of work on the walls with lots of styles and approaches and techniques. However, this was a gallery show, not a college exhibition, and that was something I did not consider.

    All in all, I think I (and the group) have benefited from these reviews. It gives authenticity/permission to us that we must jury all work for every exhibition. It reminds us that we are ARTISTS and we must exhibit as such. We are not putting on “quilt shows” but art exhibitions – two very different things. We are used to crowded quilt shows and much less familiar with spacious galleries.

    I know Kevan has suggested several times to put together information for new members and old members alike, educating them about appropriate hanging mechanisms, etc. I’d like to see a small booklet/manual to be created for all members with criteria regarding that and much more. I would like to see the group set standards and guidelines for itself – regarding the art, the selection of exhibition spaces, the number of pieces any one person can have in any given exhibit, etc.

    And maybe, just maybe, the group is too large and too spread out to accomplish all this effectively. I have only met a handful of the membership and I think that it’s a disadvantage for me and everyone else to have no real personal contact with the majority of our membership. It’s a bit hard to establish a cohesive group with people who’ve never even met one another…

    These are just my opinions. Everyone is entitled to their own!


  13. Pat says:

    A very insightful and brave review. Fiber Revolution is very exclusive and one would think that an exhibit from this group in a good gallery would be exciting, cutting edge and professional in appearance. I agree with Joanie that the lack of cohesiveness, unprofessional hanging, and the huge variation in quality, not only cheapens the value of all the works hung, but leaves a bruise for the entire art quilt world.

  14. Pat Dolan says:

    Quote: from Lisa Call
    “And I what is there to say about those peg board walls? I often tell my kids “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” I’m not sure I’d agree to show my work in such conditions. How is it supposed to look professional when it looks like a garage wall? Would you show your art in a crowded room on pegboard walls just to get another line on your resume? Fiber Revolution says one of it’s goals is educating the public about fiber art as an exciting art form. Is this goal achieved by having shows like this or are shows like this detrimental, not just to the group but to art quilts in general?”

    Curator reply:
    The gallery is spacious, well lit and has benches for viewing the work at ones leisure. The art department has an excellent reputation. Their students do well in their careers. Yes, the gallery has painted peg-board walls. That’s what this small girls school can afford. Should we refuse to hang our work in that setting simply because the department has a severely limited budget for walls? The walls were clean and/or freshly painted. I see no reason why exhibiting in this gallery would be “detrimental” to our group or to art quilts. If I had thought the venue itself was in any way detrimental to our work, we would never have exhibited there. Pegboard, in and of itself, is just that. If it were raw – unpainted – then it would have been harmful to our work to hang on the walls. While pegboard is hardly attractive, it is just the backdrop for our work.

    My main goal in curating this exhibit was for the education of the faculty and students in the department. I wanted a large diversity of styles, etc. and as many pieces as possible to bring to the gallery for the purpose of exposure and education concerning our medium of choice. I presumed the viewer could be counted on to be able to separate one work from the next despite the proximity of the pieces. This is not a quilt show, but a gallery exhibition – benches to sit on to “be with” the art.

    As part of the exhibition, several Fiber Revolution members gave a lecture on the opening day. And, the art department students have been assigned to critique the show. Talk about a great educational opportunities! Yes, some of the work was not quite up to the standard that the group should maintain – but until the group develops guidelines for its membership (which is slowly evolving), this remains a bit of a problem.

    The exhibit has been extremely well received – I’ve been told that more non-art majors and more off-campus viewers have come to this show than any previous exhibit. I’m happy to have had this opportunity to bring art quilts to this setting. I believe we accomplished the goals I had set for this exhibition.

    Quotes from David Walker – not on the review, but on art quilts in general:
    “Enter craft and it’s preeminent importance. I always told my students that I strongly believe that great craft can be made without becoming great art, however, great art is an impossibility without the processing power of great craft. My, my, that prompts me to recall all those art quilt shows we’ve attended where the work is packed into three-sided curtained stalls, aisle after aisle after aisle. It’s no wonder that the idea of quilts being REAL art is so hard to swallow.”

    Yes, art quilts have a long way to go before they will be accepted in the world of fine art. For those coming from a quilting background, there is a familiarity with quilt shows – black drapes into which dark quilts disappear or gray, flimsy, soiled drapes as a backdrop for the art; poor lighting and super crowded conditions as well as little thought on the best hanging arrangements. There are many reasons for those limitations – time, cost, space, environmental limitations. Quilters have come to see this as standard. Artists do not. Elevating our art form will take decades, not years. We are in the process of elevation and that is wonderful thing. I’m proud to be on the forefront of bringing the needed changes and wise enough to accept it may not happen in my lifetime…


  15. rayna says:

    Pat – your response to the review is exactly the kind of response we should all have to a critique of a show. “Thanks, I’ve learned something.” It’s a learning experience. And your comment that you should have gone with your gut is so true: our guts never mislead us; it’s when we don’t listen to our instincts that we are usually sorry. I suspect that you are on the road to becoming an excellent curator.

    I, too, had an experience years ago, that was similar. In an effort to be inclusive, I diluted the potential power of the exhibit and hung a show that should have been first class. The artists were all excellent, but not all of the pieces were — if you know what I mean. And I was sorry I had not eliminated half of the pieces.

    I saw the FR show on line and had the same reaction as Joanie had when she saw it in person. In fact, all of the FR exhibits through the years have had the same flaws. It is partly for this reason (besides being over-committed) tht I have opted out of FR. I have been an ‘alumna’ but I will not renew at all. I agree that the group has gotten too big and it has lost its way. Who is it that said “just because you can, doesn’t mean you SHOULD”?

    You and I are both members of another group in another part of the country. When I was teaching there in the Spring, and people brought in their pieces for the traveling exhibit, I was appalled. Every size, shape, and style — and no cohesiveness — although the exhibit did have a title. I suspect the same thing will happen for the next exhibit. I suggested to the exhibits chair that she think about mandating size parameters, much as Manhattan Quilters does for their exhibits. Then, at least, with the variety of styles, there will be SOME visual rapport between one piece and the next. I don’t think she has implemented that suggestion.

    Bottom line: we need to continually critique ourselves: our work as individuals, as well as our work ‘en groupe.’ And we need to say “oops, I can do it better next time.” Because we CAN.

  16. Holly says:

    I think that trying to hang a cohesive (would someone define this, please?!), non-juried show must be very difficult. Everyone’s styles are different, they work in different sizes, different subject matter, even have different color preferences. What if you had a group of artists who met regularly and liked to exhibit together, and one of them consistently worked in bold neons, whereas someone else painted seascapes, one painted nudes, and another did mixed media work with paint and computer parts? How could one create a cohesive show, even if all their work was excellent? Just curious what determines the makeup of cohesion, esp if there is no call for entries or theme. If you get wildly different pieces, do you try to group like colors or like subject matter together? I’m assuming the top art quilt shows are in this boat, as they don’t have themes when they do their calls for entries, but perhaps they get so many entries that they’re able to be more selective when choosing pieces to hang?

    Maybe a cohesive show isn’t necessary for a group of artists like FR who do have different styles. It could be advertised as an eclectic range of art, or something like that.

    Michele wrote: “Better to curate cohesive exhibits and seek out venues where the work can be showcased at its best.”

    Good point, although sometimes one doesn’t know how the work will exactly be hung until after the fact. This exhibit was in a respected college’s gallery – not a library, a coffee shop, or an airport (I think FR has exhibited in airports before). To me it’s not really fair to say that they sought out an inappropriate venue with this particular one.

  17. Holly says:

    I just read the title of the exhibit for the first time – “A Survey of Styles.” So FR’s intent was to exhibit a variety of styles. In that case, how does one make it cohesive, if at all?

  18. Pat says:

    Holly, People go to university to learn how to be a curator. It is an art form in and of itself. A good curator can take different styles and clour combinations and hang it in a way that compliments each and every piece within the gallery. It is about composition: colour, shape, subject, and form. There are many good rules about composition that need to be followed in order to have a installation. Some of the most important rules were broken in this case. Hanging pieces too close together, lack of consideration to style, subject, shape, colour. and most importantly having pieces hang below the pegboard which distracted the eye from the art itself. Curators, have the training and ability to take a show like this and make it work. They also know when to refuse pieces that do not work.

  19. rayna says:

    Ditto what you said, Pat. Good points about curating/hanging a show.

    Holly – a number of years ago, five of us who worked/met/critiqued together wanted to exhibit. We all worked in different styles (still do) but our proposal and unifying title for the show was general enough to encompass and enhance the differences so that our pieces complemented one another.

    The gallery director accepted our proposal but insisted on curating the show: we all brought what we felt were our best pieces and he selected those that would make a cohesive exhibit. He then hung them so that the last piece of one artist segue’d into the first piece of another artist. The result was a very cohesive show despite the style differences.

    When hanging a show, it is critical that one piece complement or connect to the next one, whether by size, by color, shape, overall feeling, or design element. Ask anyone who has done so, and they will tell you that hanging a show is one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks you can do. And if you think hanging a solo show of your own work is any easier, it is NOT. You still need to connect one piece to another so that the exhibit flows. T’ain’t easy. Ask me how I know. A good exhibit needs plenty of space between pieces so the viewer can have a dialog with each one, without feeling crowded or distracted.

    On the subject of juried shows:nearly every juror I have ever spoken with has told me that at one time or another, they had to decline pieces that were absolutely terrific . Why? Because the piece might have been so large and/or bright that it would have overwhelmed everything else. Or it may have been so much smaller or more muted than the other pieces that it would have been lost. Or…or…or. Who knows what? Good pieces that just did not work in that particular show. I am not talking about a show where everything looks alike,but where all of the pieces complement each other.

    And by the way, there can be a significant difference in the impact of a show, depending on space and how it is hung. A couple of years ago, Quilt 21/02 traveled to the Ben Shahn Galleries at Wm. Paterson University in NJ.
    It was already an excellent show – but it looked even better in those galleries than it had in its original location because whoever hung the show did such a fabulous job of connecting one work to another – and because of the setting. The pieces were spaced far enough apart so that each one shone. And the exhibit looked fresh and new.

  20. Omega says:

    I agree thoroughly about the importance of good curating skills – it is no accident that with the value of art going through various ceilings the number of academic courses on curating is increasing. The vital ingredients for a successful exhibition of worth are selection, presentation, and publicity. Because it is so difficult to get one’s work out there in the eye of the buying public, too many artists and makers take whatever opportunity is available to stick their work on a wall. Groups get together to make exhibiting easier. But the constant question should be ‘Is it good enough?’

    Is the work good enough? is the venue good enough? is the exhibition good enough? It is incredibly difficult to learn to judge one’s own work, and so a curator is essential, even as Rayna pointed out in a very small group. Indeed a curator should be consulted at least even for a solo show. I am always impressed with groups which select their members’ work regularly, because the perception of quality of the whole group can be damaged by just one artist not coming up to scratch.

    I found it interesting that the first sentence of Fiber Revolution’s description of themselves as a group states: Fiber Revolution is a network of professional textile artists combining their knowledge and experience in marketing to exhibit and sell their artwork.

    Judging by the evidence of Joanie’s review and the photographs of the show they should rely more on developing their professional textile skills and buy in the marketing expertise. If one wants to be taken seriously as a professional in one’s own area one certainly should not sell those skills and abilities short by just hooking the work up anyhow and hoping that some good fairy recognises the light hidden under the bushel!

  21. Max says:

    Holly wrote: “I just read the title of the exhibit for the first time – “A Survey of Styles.” So FR’s intent was to exhibit a variety of styles. In that case, how does one make it cohesive, if at all?”

    I think that if you intend to survey styles, then it is necessary to create a unifying principle around which you build the exhibit . . . how do people using various styles approach a specific theme (color studies, common memories, seasons)? genre (landscape, figural, photo-realism)?

    I reviewed a slightly different ‘Survey of Styles’ by this group for the SAQA Journal. In that instance the exhibit was at the New England Quilt Museum, a venue that understands how to hang the work and which has excellent facilities for doing so. (The pegboard at the venue currently under discussion doesn’t bother me . . . it could have been used to define the installation . . . a subtle commentary on the grid if you will. Getting side tracked by the state of the walls does not address the inherent underlying issues that one encounters when approaching the work.)

    One thing that Joanie didn’t mention and about which I am curious, . . . was there a curatorial statement exploring and explaining this survey? If the purpose is educational, then how better to fulfill that purpose than to provide information about what is being viewed, over and above the artist statement? There was no curatorial statement to accompany the NEQM edition of the groups Survey of Styles and it was very disappointing because a good curatorial statement can make or break a weak exhibit.

  22. Max says:

    Thanks for bringing up one of my babies Rayna . . .

    I was thrilled by the way the Ben Shahn Gallieries showcased Q21/02. The Brush is an extremely hard venue to hang,many short walls, low ceilings and in a couple of areas, very limited sight lines. That is why both Quilt 21 shows had size restrictions!

    The Nathan Rosen Museum Gallery (a small museum/gallery in a JCC complex) in Boca Raton also did a wonderful job of hanging Q21/02.

    And when I took the show to festival in Chicago I was lucky enough to get enough space to really let the work breathe and stand out, despite the fact that the work was hanging in a pipe and drape show.

    Really good, strong work can transcend venue as long as there is room for the work to breathe. One of the major complaints I heard at Art Quilts at the Whistler this year was that the work was hung too close together and that there was no way to visually separate a piece from the work surrounding it.

  23. Holly says:

    Thanks to all who answered my question about show cohesiveness. Not an easy task!

    Rayna said: “nearly every juror I have ever spoken with has told me that at one time or another, they had to decline pieces that were absolutely terrific . Why? Because the piece might have been so large and/or bright that it would have overwhelmed everything else. Or it may have been so much smaller or more muted than the other pieces that it would have been lost.”

    So that makes me wonder, related to my comment above, what one does if you have a group of artists who work in widely different styles, like the FR group. Using Rayna’s example, what if in general they all tend to work in the 18×24″ range or smaller, but one of the members uses neon fabrics and creates 6′ x 6′ quilts. Does that member consistently get rejected from shows just because their work doesn’t “fit with the crowd”? Doesn’t seem fair in a group similar to FR’s situation. It’s a diverse group of artists displaying their work. Sounds to me like even if they had a show with a common theme, that person’s pieces might get eliminated because they’d be the focal point of a room, no matter where you hang ’em!

  24. rayna says:

    Holly, I have no idea what this hypothetical juror or curator would do. But a six foot square piece would look out of place with 18″-24″ pieces, so yes – the member should get the picture of he/she wants to participate in shows.

    Any curator worth his/her salt would set size restrictions at the low end and the high end: i.e., all pieces must have sides no smaller than 12″, no larger than 24″ — or minimum size 18″, maximum size 30″. That still leaves plenty of flexibility.

    I believe (correct me if I’m wrong, somebody) – that Manhattan Quilters mandates that each piece be 36″x36″ for their shows. There is also an overriding(NY-focused, I believe) concept that is broad enough to have a myriad of interpretations and encompass the variety of styles. Because of the size restriction, the show is cohesive.

  25. Pat D, I appreciate your graciousness and your eagerness to treat this Fiber Revolution exhibit as a learning experience. By definition, a curator is ” a person who is responsible for conceiving and organizing an exhibition”. I don’t believe that in this case you were the curator, the group conceived the exhibit and you were expected to hang all the work that arrived with no opportunity for discrimination. As I stated in the review, I think a change of procedure is in order for Fiber Revolution shows in the future and I’ve been told that the group is considering implementing some adjustments to policy.

    To respond to some of the other comments:

    Yes, the pegboard wall is an unfortunate choice, but I mentioned the pegboard because I found it to be a distraction, in particular because you could see it through Hansen and McKie’s work. The gallery on the whole is a nice space, a large room with good lighting and benches on which to sit and look at the work. The concrete block construction of the walls might not leave that much of an alternative, but there must be something out there other than pegboard that would work. I’m certain that budgetary constraints are an issue here. Georgian Court University is a small Catholic college on the site of the former George Jay Gould lavish country estate, built in 1896. See . Upkeep of the grounds, sculpture and buildings must be astronomical and all are impeccably maintained.

    However, please don’t dwell on the pegboard. The point of my critique was not of the walls, but of the work and its presentation (too much, too close, too big), with so many disparate sizes, some of which extended beyond the vertical display space almost touching the radiators below. In addition, because of the unrelated sizes, subjects and the riot of colors and textures, I had trouble visualizing the exhibit as a single entity.

    Hanging an exhibit is an art in itself, the purpose is to create a composition to be seen as a whole. As has been mentioned previously, it’s not easy to accomplish. The overabundance of work at GCU is very reminiscent of pipe and drape quilt shows and not of an art exhibit. The group’s website statement proclaims that they want to be taken seriously as artists and not as hobbyists. In my perception of the exhibit, there was a lack of the professionalism they claim to be promoting.

    Yes, some of the work was sub-par, but the fact that some of the work was exhibited by the same group at a show at the Brodsky Gallery in Princeton, not even an hour away from Lakewood, in 2003 was just as disturbing to me.

    For comparison, I look forward to seeing Dr. Geraldine Velasquez’ review of this exhibit which will be published in the December SAQA Journal.

  26. Holly says:

    Joanie writes:
    “Yes, some of the work was sub-par, but the fact that some of the work was exhibited by the same group at a show at the Brodsky Gallery in Princeton, not even an hour away from Lakewood, in 2003 was just as disturbing to me.”

    There’s been some discussion recently about oversaturating the regional market by having the same piece in various shows, but I wonder what the accepted radius should be. Should one never exhibit the same piece within, say, 50 miles? That would really limit exhibition choices if you like to exhibit locally.

    I still have to say that what is oversaturation to some is new work to other viewers (depending on the viewers). I recall now that I did see the exhibit at the Brodsky Gallery, because it was within my home region, but driving to Lakewood, although only 45 min away, wasn’t something I would often do. My own radius didn’t really extend out to Ocean County. So the work at Brodsky was new to me, and I never saw it again elsewhere.

    Again, I think we art quilters may hit show after show and thus become victim to seeing the same pieces over and over again, but if part of the purpose of exhibiting our work is so the general public can see it, and hopefully purchase it, the general public is not necessarily in the same boat that we’re in.

  27. But Holly, go to the Fiber Revolution website at Look at the previous exhibits and you will see that since 2003, they have 9 shows in NJ alone. This is not counting the shows in Philadelphia and in other neighboring states. MUCH of the same work has been repeated in those nine shows. If you only went to two different shows in the course of three years, you would still have seen some of the same work. THIS is the point that I have been trying to make that you don’t seem to be able to grasp.

  28. Lisa Call says:

    Another thought about overexposure from Edward Winkleman, a gallery owner in Chelsea, New York. [this is in reference to what to put on a resume or bio from his post on his blog here].

    Group Exhibitions
    Believe it or not, too many group exhibitions can be a negative, suggesting the artist is all over the place and probably doesn’t have a body of work for a solo exhibition that hasn’t already been seen in bits and pieces. It can scream “Overexposure.”

    Irregardless if you feel a NYC gallery owners opinion is relevant I think his post is a must read for anyone that considers themself a professional artist. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but I think he was extremely generous to write that post. This type of ‘direct from the gallerist mouth’ communication is invaluable for artists when it comes to understanding how that world works.

    Back to this note about overexposure. First, this is one definition of overexposure. I think this behavior is something many (most) quilt artists are guilty of. If we want to be taken seriously as professional artists I think it’s time to consider that all these group shows might possibly be getting us no where.

    Where are the solo shows, public art commissions, gallery representation, etc that might naturally follow a professional artist’s career?

    I think the art quilt world is stuck in a rut. The definition of overexposure given above is in regards to a single artist but when I look at the art quilt world I think as a group we suffer from the same problem. The plethora of group shows is not, in my mind, in any way helpful to either the individual artists or quilt-art as a whole.

    We are overexposed and we have little to show for it as a group.

  29. Holly says:

    Joanie, I understand your point. I didn’t realize that much of the same work had been exhibited stretched across 9 shows. Your previous post only mentioned overlap between the Brodsky Gallery and the Lakewood exhibits. But the point I’m trying to make that you are not grasping is that while there is overlap to us art quilters who visit a lot of these shows, it’s probably new work to 90% of the population visiting those places, whether it’s tourists, locals, people working in the buildings, etc. Is there any one of us here who can honestly say we’ve never shown the same piece more than once in a state?

  30. Pat Dolan says:

    Great discussion! I’m delighted to have stirred up so much dialog on these topics, albeit unknowingly.

    I have a BA in fine art – but the students were NEVER instructed to do anything but to create. There were no assignments to critique shows. There were no guidelines given. One of the reasons I joined FR was to learn those skills – and I’m certainly learning!

    Thanks to all the thoughtful comments.


  31. Kit says:

    Holly says
    “what …you are not grasping is that while there is overlap to us art quilters who visit a lot of these shows, it’s probably new work to 90% of the population visiting those places, whether it’s tourists, locals, people working in the buildings, etc.”

    I think that this is what arts & crafts fairs are for, and restaurants, cafees and lobby areas. People are given an opportunity ‘ to bump into art of all kind’ – not a bad thing; it’s informal,casual and pretty much anything goes. Occasionally there is a pleasant surprise but more often it represents a hodge podge of what’s available – sorta like TV.

    A dedicated art space such as a gallery need to handled with more care – as elaborated in previous messages – no need to repeat the obvious. The big problem here is the relationship between the chosen (or offered) work and this well-established group’s name. When I clicked on this site, I was hoping to read about ‘revolutionary new work’. Most fiber artists (and even a tourist or two) would expect to see unusual and cutting edge work from a group called “Fiber Revolution”.

    In this case the work looks a bit dated. That said, I recall some pretty interesting pieces from this same group back in 2002 and 2003. – in particular, Deborah Sidwell’s Orange Courage Haiku and Virginia Abrams Interface. I bookmarked those pieces as they represented edgier work at the time, and I think they still do. Good work is evocative stirs the soul and is timeless.


  32. Holly says:

    I’d better stop posting for fear of being accused of hogging bandwidth or something, but I did want to respond to Kit’s thoughtful post. I think I’m still being misunderstood. I don’t have an issue with the comments on the quality of work of the FR exhibit, and I can see the points about it being hung too close together (though that doesn’t bother me personally).

    Definitely arts and crafts shows, restaurants, cafes, etc., who hang work are seen by the general public. But don’t you think the general public visits galleries, too? I was only try to emphasize, that to me, and it’s just my humble thought, that while we art quilters traipse from quilt exhibit to quilt exhibit, the public may not. So be it a gallery, museum show, cafe, or airport terminal, we art quilters are not the only ones viewing the work. What’s old and has been “seen before” to us is possibly new to the rest of the masses, no matter the venue. We should define our audience and if it extends beyond the art quilt community, then perhaps a piece of work shown in more than one venue locally isn’t a bad thing (again, to me…), because each venue brings in new visitors. At the same time it obviously irks the art quilters, and yes, I’ve been in that boat, too!

    Not trying to beat a dead horse, but feeling like I’m speaking Greek or something . And I don’t expect people to agree with me. I just feel like my thoughts are being misunderstood here…

  33. Martha says:

    I have to jump in here. Holly, I completely understand your point, but I disagree with it. No well respected oil painter would show the same work over and over within suich a short time period, regardless of venue. So why should we be any different? We’re artists, and we should act like artists, which means fresh work, certainly over a three year time period.

  34. Rayna says:

    Brava, Martha!

  35. Lisa Call says:

    Holly, I too understand what you are saying and I also disagree. If we are looking to be viewed as professional artists then our behavior should be such. If we are looking to be sunday painters or hobbyists then that is something different.

    Fiber Revolution claims they are professional artists so that is the standard to which I will hold them, and this show falls short of that mark on many levels, including the overexposure of their work on the east coast.

    Did you read my previous comment about overexposure? Do you understand that this is a concern in the professional art world? It’s not about irking some art quilters that might see the same thing over and over again. It’s about behaving professionally because we want to be part of the larger art world.

  36. Holly says:

    Lisa, I did read your post about overexposure, and somewhat disagree with it. Something can only be overexposed (to me) if the same viewers are seeing it. Otherwise what’s old to some is new to others who’d never seen it.

    On the other hand, how many top art quilters submit the same piece to various shows over the allowed 3-yr period, and consistently win awards on that same piece? My interpretation of what’s being said here is that that sort of exposure is amateurish and creates for the overexposure problem. If that’s correct, then perhaps it’s because in our field, we’ve been “allowed” this 3-yr exposure period in the typical quilt shows and it’s been carried over into other shows.

  37. Lisa Call says:

    Holly, my understanding is we are talking about being professional artists. Those standards are already set by the art world – not by quilters. Whether or not you accept those standards depends on if you want to be a professional artist or not.

    It sounds to me your reasoning for why you think it’s okay to do this is that “other people are doing it also”. I absolutely agree with you on that, most quilters don’t spend much time worrying about the larger art world.

    But we are addressing the subset that is concerned with being part of the larger art world. And if that is what we want, we can’t on one hand whine “Oh we aren’t accepted poor us” and then say “their standards of conduct aren’t for me”.

    Either we want to be accepted and therefore need to work within that established system or we need to walk away and stop trying to be accepted. We can’t have it both ways and it irks me that so many quilters will lament our non-acceptance but they do nothing personally to become a professional artist.

  38. BJ says:

    How can we be viewed as artist when there are few venues where we can exhibit our “art of the quilt”. Most quilt shows are just that , perhaps they offer a category for innovative quilts or such, but we’re the second thought. Are there any venues in US such as the UK’s Festival of Quilts where there is open competition and galleries? What options do quilt artist have to exhibit their work?

  39. Deborah Sidwell says:

    Dear Kit,
    Thank-you for the kind words regarding one of my pieces from 2002 called “Orange Courage Haiku.”

    The concept of Fiber Revolution began with Martha Sielman’s idea to use the energy of many fiber artists to market and obtain venues for her work and other Studio Art Quilt Associates work within a certain geographical area. Fiber Revolution has had a number of directors over the last 4 1/2 years, and all have had slightly different opinions regarding the direction the group should be led. Still to this day, however, members are not juried in so of course there are different levels of artistic development.

    One principle that has been codified over the years is that Fiber Revolution is an educational device to bring art quilts to the viewing public who do not attend quilt shows and have no idea that there is a subgroup of the fiber arts given the label art quilt. It was also decided that Fiber Revolution would be a tool to enable emerging quilt artists the opportunity to exhibit, learn to market their work, and learn curatorial duties. These are all necessary steps toward solo exhibition. Therein lies one of the reasons the development of some member work and the quality of installation might not meet the standards of some other quilt artists within the group, the art community in general, and those who devote their time to review Fiber Revolution exhibits. However, I do believe that venues offering up exhibition space have every right to expect a certain level of professional development of group work, the installation when the group does it’s own installation, and that the member curator must be up to task to meet the expectations of not only the membership but also the venue and viewing public.

    Whether the work of the group as a whole is determined to be worthy of the label art is entirely subjective. Whether individual pieces rise to the definition of art is subjective. The discussio has merit, but the group does not have to satisfy everyone’s subjective opinion regarding art worthiness, and it’s easy to be a critic. It’s hard to pound the pavement to obtain exhibit space. It’s hard to curate and mount a show. Fiber Revoltuion does this at least once a month. How many critics can make that claim?

    What seems to be a truth from my perspective of membership with Fiber Revolution is that some members use it as a place to park old work that cannot travel the quilt show circuit anymore. Some members use it as just another tool for exposure and contribute little or nothing toward improving the group. Some members repeatedly send the same pieces out to exhibits… whatever the reason. My pet peeves.

    Fiber Revolution is great at marketing each exhibit, and it might just seem the northeast is saturated. Most shows have taken place in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, because those members have husseled to find exhibition space. We’ve rarely had shows in some member states.

    This group has multi talented people who are professionals in other areas of their lives other than art. They have banded together to pool their diverse talents to brand a name and concept, successfully market their work, and serve an educational purpose.

    Deborah Tiryung Sidwell
    former member of Fiber Revolution

  40. Liz Berg says:

    I appreciate all of the discussion going on here. I have been dismayed by attending large quilt shows and seeing the same work entered throughout the year. These are quilt shows, however, and not art shows.

    I have been entering my work in art shows for several years and find that when my work is accepted, it is hung far better at the art show than it is in a quilt show. I started out in fine arts as a painter and understood what was expected for showing. One does not get judges comments from an art show, one does not get a critique on one’s prowess with the craft, and usually, the only feed back one gets is if the work sells.

    We need to remember that quilt shows are for quilters. Quilters generally don’t buy other people’s quilts but study them to see how to make them themselves.

    Art shows are for those who appreciate art and are interested in owning art. If we want “art quilts” to be taken seriously as art, they must be hung like fine arts…and this gets to the use of the word quilts in art quilts and the public perception of what that is. Finer art is accepted in to many, many fine art shows and I frequently find that there are few other fiber artists, other than basket makers and weavers, who enter into these shows. Well worth our consideration.

    Decided who you want to see your work and then show it according. I enter quilt shows so that my work will become known to quilters so I can obtain some teaching gigs. I show at art shows to sell my work and to be known as an artist.

  41. Sue Reno says:

    Could we define what makes a quilt look “dated”? Does this refer to the use of particular techniques that were briefly in vogue, or is it being used in this review to describe a quilt that has been displayed frequently over the past several years? Is it a function of color schemes or thematic elements?

    I recently saw the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum exhibit “Quilts Rooted in Tradition”, which included quilts from the 80’s, 90’s, and current work up to 2004. Some of the “older” quilts were visually stunning and engaging–I would consider them timeless. It would seem obvious that a quilt that does not look “dated” is both more satisfying to the artist and the potential purchaser/collector. If it is our collective goal to make work that endures, rather than work that will be the latest novelty at a major quilt show, what are the characteristics to strive for and the pitfalls to avoid?

  42. maxinefarkas says:

    Deborah Sidwell wrote: “The discussio has merit, but the group does not have to satisfy everyone’s subjective opinion regarding art worthiness, and it’s easy to be a critic. It’s hard to pound the pavement to obtain exhibit space. It’s hard to curate and mount a show. Fiber Revoltuion does this at least once a month. How many critics can make that claim?”

    I take exception to this comment. Writing good critical reviews is NOT easy. Nor is curating and mounting good, thoughtful exhibitions. Quantity does not qaulity make. And this is one of the points that was made in Joanie’s review.

    One of the reasons that this venue for reviews was created was that there were few if any reviews being written about art quilt exhibits by individuals who know the medium well enough to bring an informed analytical rigor to the review process. The individuals who write these reviews have had experience not only as exhibitors, but often experence as curators as well.

  43. For BJ:

    It takes drive and commitment to find shows in which to exhibit your work. There are many mixed-media exhibits that will accept fiber/textile art but you have to look for them. Volunteer at a local art center to get your foot in the door. Subscribe to ART magazines (not just quilt-related magazines) such as Art Calendar for listings of submission opportunities. There are also online Call for Entry sites. Educate yourself beyond the boundaries that many quilters place themselves in by subscribing to Art in America or Art News and other related publications.

    There seems to be such an issue with art quilters when these subjects are discussed. They are confusing quilt shows with art exhibits, which are as different as apples and oranges. Weekend quilt shows do nothing for your art career. On the other hand, if you teach or want to write a book, then that route is for you. If you want to be taken seriously as an artist, start with juried mixed-media exhibits and work your way up to gallery representation and solo shows.

    To Sue Reno:

    Once again, apples and oranges. When I wrote the review, it was written in an art exhibit context, not a quilt show context. You mention traditional quilts and techniques. I described a “picture-postcard” type of imagery on one of the pieces in the exhibit, which was “reminiscent of 1950’s wallpaper”. I thought the imagery in this work was dated, which has nothing to do with traditional or antique quilts. However, there was other work in the exhibit that I would describe as “gimmicky”, using the latest in embellishment techniques, which also might seem dated in the future.

  44. Del Thomas says:

    Great discussion – we need more of this sort of thinking about the way art quilts are displayed and viewed. As a collector I find the quilts that I add to the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection in many different ways. Viewing a thoughtfully selected exhibit at a gallery with a coordinated installation can be a very satisfying experience. Seeing the work in this sort of venue gives more of an idea of how the work would look hanging in my own home or office. Visiting a quilt show is an opportunity to see what might be coming up in future years, but it is necessary to sort through the work of quiltmakers of varying abilities in both expression and technique. Something that most collectors, or even casual buyers, would not be interested in doing. In looking at traveling exhibits I am often disappointed in the hodge-podge of abilities, styles and themes. And I think quiltmakers should consider how and where their pieces will be shown if they want to gain a reputation for quality work. It diminishes any good art to be shown with mediocre work that is just slapped together to get in a group venue.

  45. Deborah Sidwell says:

    I was neither impuning this forum which provides a vehicle for critique, nor did I say it was difficult to write critique. I said it’s easy to be a critic, meaning it is easy to be critical.

    Furthermore, I find absolutely no fault with Joanie’s critique.

  46. maxinefarkas says:


    critic – one who reviews or judges merit of literary, artistic, etc., works
    critical – expressing criticism
    criticism – work of a critic; critical article, essay or remark
    criticize – discuss critically
    critique – critical essay or analysis; criticism

    or so says my pocket oxford dictionary . . .

  47. lisacall says:


    I also have some thoughts on your comment “the group does not have to satisfy everyone’s subjective opinion regarding art worthiness, and it’s easy to be a critic. It’s hard to pound the pavement to obtain exhibit space. It’s hard to curate and mount a show.”

    I believe part of the curator’s job is to be a critic – to say “this piece is not okay for this show”. But from what I’ve seen of this show and many other group quilt shows this isn’t happening.

    Very often I feel noone is playing critic in the art quilt world, not the artists, not the curators and noone is writing thoughtful criticism of the show, at least not on a consistent basis.

    If it is so easy why is it not being done more often? And with more honesty?

    As artists we need to be more critical of ourselves “is this piece really a gallery quality piece”, “should I show this piece for the 3rd time in the same geographic location in a short time span”, “is this venue displaying my work as art”.

    As curators we need to be more critical “is this venue appropriate for an art show”, “is the piece appropriate for this show”, “does the art look good hung this way”.

    ArtQuiltReviews is hoping to add some critical writing, which will hopefully inspire similar activities in other places.

    We can do better.

  48. Jill says:

    My understanding is that each FR member is responsible for finding a venue and putting on a show. In this case, it’s unfair to think the curator will withdraw pieces from the show because they do not fit with the rest of the artwork or aren’t at the same level artistically. The FR curator is functioning as a coordinator, not a juror.

    I’m a little concerned that art quilt shows are being held to an impossible standard. Every one of them does not have to be Quilt National quality. In fact, isn’t this the sort of exhibit that is perfect for newly-minted art quilters to display their work? Or does their artwork have to be QN quality before they are allowed to show their art quilts in public?

    I do agree that presentation is important, but I’ve also curated shows like these and sometimes you work with the display space you get. No gallery is going to be perfect in every way.

  49. BJ says:

    Thanks Joanie for your perspective on entering venues. I am heavy on the drive side, unfortunately at this point in my life I find myself the caretaker of four generations, talk about sandwich generation, mine is crushed generation. It’s just a fact, so I’m trying to work this out from my little corner of the world

  50. Holly says:

    Lisa wrote:
    “Very often I feel noone is playing critic in the art quilt world, not the artists, not the curators and noone is writing thoughtful criticism of the show, at least not on a consistent basis.”

    Could it be because many of the people who do write art quilt reviews are art quilters themselves? They are critiquing their peers, their competition. It’s easier to be an outsider reviewer/critiquer than it is to be on the inside, perhaps. Most (all?) of the reviews I’ve read in the SAQA Journal, for example, have been by fellow art quilters.

  51. rayna says:

    Look for my review of another exhibit, shortly. I can tell you it is NOT easy to write a thoughtful review.

  52. Pat Dolan says:

    One final comment from the “functioning coordinator” of FR’s exhibit at the Georgian Court University Geis Art Gallery:

    A special thanks to the critique and all follow-up comments from the Art Department at GCU. As a direct result of this discussion, the gallery will be removing the pegboard and installing an appropriate gallery hanging system.

    So Hooray! for us and for them!
    Thanks all!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: