Quilted Collages/Collaged Quilts

November 26, 2006

Quilted Collages/Collaged Quilts

Sandra Donabed
Acton Memorial Library
Acton MA
November 2 – December 27, 2006
Artist Talk, November 29, 7pm
www.donabed.net

Reviewed by Maxine Farkas
maxine.farkas@gmail.com

Self curated solo exhibitions are always an interesting challenge for the viewer. Often the artist/curator’s intent is clear, “this is my new work” or “this is everything that I have done in the past 10 years, or in my career, or in my lifetime”.

With this solo exhibition, Sandra Donabed has chosen to challenge the viewer just as she has throughout her career, with wit and passion. In this group of 17 autobiographical pieces, both quilts and collage, she has offered up a sampling of work that spans the last decade. The exhibit demonstrates a deep love of the work of women’s hands, of the ephemeral guides that women used to create that work and of the vintage textiles that defined women’s “territory”. Because the work is autobiographical, it is rich in content, yet not easily interpreted.

The quilt work, much of it referring in one way or another to the vocabulary of the traditional quilt, consistently creates a dialog between that vocabulary and the one used in the fine arts. In other words, the fundamental concepts which are indispensable to the fine artist, and which many quilt artists have difficulty incorporating, are integrated seamlessly into Donabed’s work.
Sylvia’s Circles I

Sylvia’s Circles

“Sylvia’s Circles” is one example where Donabed takes what at first glance appears to be a traditional form, quarter circle in a square, and uses it as the starting point for a seemingly improvisational monologue on the circle. The sophisticated use and interplay of color transcends form. This piece is the first one sees as one approaches the door to the exhibit and it draws the viewer into the space. It is an exquisite nod to the artist’s mastery of the contemporary quilt form.

Evolution

Evolution

Orphaned vintage patchwork blocks are used in a number of the pieces. The black and white bearclaw variation blocks that create the horizontal borders of ‘Evolution’ are a case in point. In this piece, with the lighting provided by the venue, the stark solidity of the patchwork blocks tend to overpower the toile central portion with its commentary on pastoral imagery. As one approaches and focus falls on the central portion, the question of meaning surfaces as it does with much of Donabed’s work. Is this piece supposed to be mildly amusing or is there a deeper meaning that is being missed?

The Day They Raised the Angels

Earth Mommies: The Day They Released the Angels

“Earth Mommies: The Day They Released The Angels” is puzzling, humorous and beautifully executed. The use of seemingly randomly placed black and white patchwork blocks creates a dynamic tension that is then forced into the background by irregularly placed small circles of color. These blocks serve as a backdrop to the ‘Mommies’, which are large black and white toile figures of bare-breasted goddesses. The Mommies seem to be tossing putti into the air, are these angels being nurtured or rejected?


Attack Rabbits

Attack Rabbits

In “Attack Rabbits”, a collage on stretched canvas, Donabed uses toile and redwork embroidery to create an improbable world where giant redwork rabbits leap fences with abandon. If this is autobiographical, what story is it telling? The more time one spends with the work, the more one finds to engage the imagination, and the more questions one asks.

Fandango de Tortuga

Fandango de Tortuga

The viewer first notices the turtles in “Fandango de Tortuga”. In this simple composition, a pair of turtles could be contemplating mating, given the title. The plants and foliage are beautifully expressed, the attention to line is exquisite. On closer inspection some of the foliage appears to be darts from a dress pattern. A pattern paper zipper bisects the image, making the viewer ask, “Why?”. Is this a compositional device? The use of small orange crosses (x’s?) scattered throughout also pulls the imagery together, yet disappear as one retreats from the work.

Placemats

Placemats

“Placemats”, a set of four table settings, appears to refer to the series of quilts Donabed created in response to downsizing, moving from a house to condo. Then again, she could be exploring her collection of vintage linens.


august 1

August

“August” appears to be one of the simpler stories presented in the exhibit, squirrels running rampant in the garden. The vegetation is riotous but controlled. It is broiderie perse gone over the top. Imagery garnered from vintage tablecloths is artfully contained by the striped border.

Deconstruction

Deconstruction

“Deconstruction”, an artist proof, could be an off register print. Is it an invitation to contemplate life when it goes slightly off center? The large central image is obviously a blow up of one of the flowers in the broiderie perse border. Seemingly, this is one of the simplest pieces in the collection, yet the desire is to somehow reach into the work and pull the central motif together because the imagery appears vaguely disturbing.

Flower Collage

Flower Collage

In “Flower Collage”, Donabed returns to the central imagery of “Deconstruction”, in this instance using flower petals scanned, then printed on pattern paper. Of the mounted collages in the exhibit, this is the most accessible to the viewer, and seemingly one of the least enigmatic.

Multiple Choices

Multiple Choices

Of the quilts offered, “Self Portrait with Sticks” and “Multiple Choices” are the least satisfying. While the imagery in “Multiple Choices” is evocative, the quilt itself is visually flat, the colors seemingly lacking in value contrast, almost washed out. The venue lighting was less than kind to this piece, as the image on Donabed’s website is much stronger. “Self Portrait with Sticks” was confusing and seemingly pointless, although the twig applique offered some depth, this piece also read as visually flat. It is possible, given the visual complexity of much of the other work in the exhibit, that this work was less satisfying because of the nature of photo imagery on fabric, which tends to rely solely on the strength of the image to create depth. It could also be that this direction is such a departure in technique from the other work shown that the viewer is thrown for a loop.

Despite this reviewer’s quibble with several of the pieces, this is one of the strongest presentations of a body of work that has been offered by a fiber artist in Eastern Massachusetts in the past few years.

A note on the venue:

The venue is less than ideal, a multipurpose space designed to display framed art with structural elements that interfere with several of the larger pieces. As in many communities across the country, local libraries in Massachusetts have been working with artists to create alternative exhibition opportunities. The Acton Memorial Library juries its exhibits from slide submissions, the exhibition space doubles as a multi-use meeting space. While far from a mainstream or ideal gallery setting, the space is used for numerous community events and activities and the exhibitions are extremely accessible to the public.

Photographs of Attack Rabbits, Placemats, Deconstruction and Flower Collage by the reviewer, all others supplied by the artist. All work copyright the artist.

Advertisements

Visual Journeys: Art Quilts by the Salon Seven

November 25, 2006

Visual Journeys: Art Quilts by the Salon Seven

November 4 through 30, 2006

New Rochelle Public Library
1 Library Plaza
New Rochelle, NY
914-632-7878
The New Rochelle Public Library
www.nrpl.org
www.thesalonseven.com

Reviewed by Carolyn Lee Vehslage
www.clvquilts.com
Photographs by Jeri Riggs.

The Salon Seven, a group of New York and Connecticut quilt artists, have put together an exhibition whose purpose is to introduce artistic rather than functional quilts for its audience at the New Rochelle Public Library. Most of the quilts on display are attractive and do not involve questions about the artist’s intention. The quilts are hung on a series of display walls in the outer lobby of the library.

Although the individual artist’s work varies from Beth Carney’s tranquil pieced squares and rectangles to Susan Schrott’s joyful women to Georgia Heller’s still lifes and landscapes, the exhibition works visually in part because of the structure of the venue. Each artist has one full wall plus space for additional pieces. This allows each artist to establish her individual frame of reference.

The Salon Seven provide some coherence in their artwork by taking on the challenge of each creating a piece from the same piece of cloth, a bold rainbow of colors dyed by member Jeri Riggs. The seven artists then made a piece of similar size in their own style

challenge_left.jpg

challenge_right.jpg
The Salon Seven Challenge pieces, as well as the banner and the challenge fabric

The opposite wall also holds one quilt from each of the members that is not part of the challenge. The art on this wall is hung salon style (as the group’s name implies), within two inches of each other. These pieces are too close to enjoy, and their diversity is jarring. These pieces could have been edited out for a stronger overall exhibition. There is a third wall of three large pieces by three different artists that also does not gel together.

 

opposite_left.jpg
opposite_right.jpg
Opposite Wall

Benedicte Caneill offers a visual discussion on the loss of memory. The word memory appears to be written and erased on a school blackboard and is a moving statement about the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

caneill_memoryi.jpg
Benedicte Caneill – Memory I

The pieces Georgia Heller chose to hang are all from Northern Star Quilt Guild challenges. Two of her pieces, ‘Falling Leaves’ and ‘Long Island Tree of Life’ are so thoughtfully laid out that she could develop them into kits for the contemporary quilt market. Because she shows such mastery of techniques and color choices, perhaps she should challenge herself to come up with her own direction.

heller_fallingleaves.jpg
Georgia Heller – Falling Leaves

Elizabeth Rosenberg has two successful graphic quilts with ‘Elec Trickle Banana’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Her choice of commercial fabric for the heavily pieced, overly large bananas and strawberries make them mouth watering.

rosenberg_electricklebanana.jpg
Elizabeth Rosenberg – Elec Trickle Banana

Although Linda Schoenfeld’s pieces show excellent workmanship, they bear strong resemblance to quilt artists’ artwork she may admire or taken workshops from. Her most successful pieces are in the style of Noriko Endo; tiny colored bits of fabric are trapped under tulle to create leaves (‘Springtime’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’).

schoenfeld_springtime_autumnleaves.jpg
Linda Schoenfeld – Springtime (above); Autumn Leaves

Jeri Riggs works in her usual eclectic styles. Some of her pieces seem to be early attempts at using various techniques.Her ‘New York Circles’ is the most interesting of the grouping.

riggs_newyorkcircles.jpg
Jeri Riggs – New York Circles

Susan Schrott has the most stylized artwork. She depicts women in various aspects of their everyday life. Her ‘Woman with Blue Vase’ is the most successful composition of her series. While the others have the figures floating on a sea of whole cloth, hand dyed fabric, this one has a foreground and middle ground for depth of field. Susan’s artwork has a naivete that works for her sense of self-expression. However, she could improve the facial features, specifically the eyes.
schrott_womanwithbluevase.jpg
Susan Schrott – Woman with Blue Vase

Beth Carney has the most consistent look from piece to piece. Her compositions, such as ‘Structured Chaos #12: Hot Flash’ are well proportioned and balanced. Her work is perhaps the most generally successful in the exhibit.

carney_structuredchaos12.jpg
Beth Carney – Structured Chaos #12: Hot Flash

The intent of the exhibit and its venue allowed these artists to show off a disparate group of artworks to library patrons who perhaps wouldn’t have been familiar with the medium. The variety of styles and techniques are appropriate for an introduction to art quilts.

 


Link to Syracuse Post on ‘Quilts=Art=Quilts’ at the Schweinfurth Center, Auburn, NY

November 21, 2006

November 19’s Syracuse Post “STARS” section contains a review of the Schweinfurth Center’s current ‘Quilts=Art=Quilts’ show:

http://www.syracuse.com/poststandard/stories/index.ssf?/base/living-2/116367148893270.xml&coll=1

(If that URL doesn’t work for you, go to Syracuse.com and search on “schweinfurth quilts” and the article will come up in the list of results.)


Surface Tension: Contemporary Quilt Art

November 17, 2006

Surface Tension: Contemporary Quilt Art
James Howe Gallery, Vaughn-Eames Building
Kean University
1000 Morris Ave, Union, NJ

Nov. 1-22, 2006
Sandra Sider: Juror & Guest Curator
Exhibit Website

Reviewed by Rayna Gillman
www.studio78.net/

Surface Tension, which opened November 1 at New Jersey’s Kean University Howe Gallery is, on the whole, a strong, thoughtfully presented exhibit of contemporary quilt art with a focus on surface design. In selecting work for this show, Sandra Sider’s goal is twofold: to select quilts that “would represent the diverse range of surface design” and would also stand on their own as works of art. For the most part, she has succeeded.

Because a survey is, by nature, a comprehensive view, a few pieces included in the show seem to be there because they include techniques that rounded out the survey, rather than because they are strong works of art. However, while not all viewers would agree with every choice, the juror’s talk about how she juried the show provided invaluable background that enabled those who attended to see the work with additional depth and perspective.

The roster of top-notch artists use airbrushing, collage, batik, beading, burning, cording, crochet, cyanotype, discharge processes, digital imagery, dyeing, embroidery, felting, rubbings, gel transfer, monoprint, painting, photo transfer, resist processes, screen printing, shibori, solvent transfer, stamp printing, and stenciling.

Despite the variety of styles and processes, the show is remarkably cohesive. To begin with, there is sufficient space between the work so that no piece encroaches on another and the viewer can see each work without distraction.

st_install_01_email.jpg

Surface Tension – Installation

In addition, a great deal of care is taken to hang pieces together that speak to each other, a key ingredient in a strong exhibit.

Schulze and Sellers

Joan Schulze – Three Bowls and Sally Seller – Half

While these two pieces are entirely different, the vessels as well as the colors and shapes connect them. Each surface is spare in its own way: Joan Schulze’s minimalist “Three Bowls” uses digital printing and drawing with toner and stitches; Sally Seller’s “Half” uses beads with restraint. Both are beautiful in their simplicity.

In another example of conversation between pieces, Linda Dunn’s “Shadows” is paired with Arlé Sklar-Weinstein’s “Through the Eyes of My Father I: Fish Vendors.” The dialogue here is in the sense of memory, transparency, and the use of images transferred to cloth. Weinstein uses sheers to accomplish the layering over her father’s vintage photographs; Dunn layers both text and old images through a variety of transfer techniques to create transparency. Both pieces imply a story and it is up to the viewer to fill in the blanks.

Dunn and Weinstein

Linda Dunn’s Shadows and Arlé Sklar-Weinstein’s – Through the Eyes of My Father I: Fish Vendors

Two of the show’s pieces are felted. Liz Axford uses silk organza and wool felt to create “Text and Subtext,” a knockout piece with the texture of ancient documents. She uses stitches effectively and mysteriously as calligraphic marks in this contemplative piece.

Axford

Liz Axford – Text and Subtext

Axford detail

Liz Axford – Text and Subtext – detail

Bonnie Wells uses felt differently in her asymmetrical and vibrant “Reclamation.” The piece is unified by her repetition of circles, varied in color and scale, dyed and discharged.

Wells

Bonnie Wells – Reclamation

Another standout is Marilyn Gillis’ “Reflections from a Blue Moon.” She combines shibori and clamp-resisted fabric dyed by Elin Noble and Judy Robertson to create a serene work elegant in its simplicity.

Gillis

Marilyn Gillis – Reflections from a Blue Moon

Less is more in Pat Owoc’s understated “Niche.” Disperse dyes on polyester create luminosity and two simple, graceful lines speak eloquently.

Owoc

Pat Owoc – Niche

Nancy Erickson’s “Interiors #8: Private Dancer” is the initial piece on the gallery wall. The oldest piece in the exhibit, it may have historical significance as the first in her painted animal series, but its size and color are jarring and looked out of place. Fortunately, hanging it nearest the entrance minimizes its potential to overwhelm the other work.

Erickson

Nancy Erickson – Interiors #8: Private Dancer

Linda Colsh’s poignant “Iron Lace” and Elizabeth Barton’s abstract “On the Latch,” both thought-provoking pieces in neutrals, hang between two bright bookends, a jarring juxtaposition.

st_install_01_email.jpg

Center pieces: Linda Colsh – Iron Lace and Elizabeth Barton – On the Latch

Mildred Thornhill Reynolds’ “The House is on Fire” is festooned with crocheted yarn and a three-dimensional stuffed sofa. While the piece deals with her daughter’s home burning to the ground, a tragic event, the piece itself seems oddly comical and overly cute.

Reynolds

Mildred Thornhill Reynolds – The House is on Fire

On the other end of the wall, Toni Disiano’s “Three Blue Blocks” provides balance, but her three little screenprinted squares are lost in the off-balance composition. From a distance, they have little impact.

Disano

Toni Disiano – Three Blue Blocks

Lisa Chipetine juxtaposes an abstract collage of sheers, discharged fabric, and other items with a very traditional background. It is not clear what the title “Trapped” refers to, but the heavy, white-on-white trapunto’d traditional background does not work with the airy collage that sits on it.

Chipetine

Lisa Chipetine – Trapped

However, in the scheme of things, these are minor. Despite the difficulty of mounting a survey show, this exhibit is successful because:
1) The juror has a clear idea of what she wants to accomplish.
2) The show has an overriding focus.
3) The walls are not crowded.
4) The work is hung with regard to how it relates to its neighbors and there is a balance of size and shape.
5) The pieces are varied in style, color, technique, and voice, but they are presented cohesively.
6) Each work speaks in the individual voice of the artist who created it.

“‘Surface Tension’ is an important historical document for the art quilt movement. The tight focus on use of contemporary surface design techniques shows an accomplished use of the media.”


The 9th Northwest Contemporary Art Quilt Invitational

November 9, 2006

The 9th Northwest Contemporary Art Quilt Invitational
The American Art Company
1126 Broadway Plaza
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-272-4327
www.americanartco.com
October 19 – November 18, 2006
Tuesday –Friday 10 – 5; Saturdays 10 –5

Reviewed by June O. Underwood
www.juneunderwood.com

 

The American Art Company is a commercial gallery situated in the heart of downtown Tacoma, Washington, a city which has undergone an arts and culture revival in the last few years.

The gallery is spacious. A good-sized entrance room opens up through a wide corridor to two large exhibit spaces. The wall art is floated about 6 inches out from the walls, so it has extra depth. In the back (primary) exhibit areas, the pieces are subtly grouped, often in threes, a larger piece having two slightly smaller ones on either side. The groupings in this exhibit area are set off by colorful, highly polished wood sculptures on pedestals between the groupings.


aac3.jpg

 

In the front room a few art quilt pieces are exhibited among watercolors, oil paintings, and mobile-like sculptures. The watercolors and sculptures were of a quality that the fiber art in that room lacked. The quilts hanging in the space, by Nancy Erickson, Patti Shaw, Dorothy Ives, and Barbara Nepom, seem like after-thoughts. They neither fit with the art quilts of the main exhibit nor are of the quality of the watercolors and sculpture.

Ericksons’s “The Interview” should probably have been a painting, since the minimal quilting doesn’t enhance the image or the texture, but rather makes the piece hang awkwardly. Even as a painting, the Erickson piece was less effective than other of her animal pieces.

Nancy Erickson, “The Interview”

Nancy Erickson, The Interview

 

Patti Shaw’s “Dame Edith,” beautifully worked, has pop connotations but caused confusion about its subject matter.

Shaw Dame Edith

Patti Shaw, Dame Edith

 

The Dorothy Ives’ piece, “Solitaire,” which looks interesting on the web site, is too busy for its poignant message to be read easily. The background obscures the figures.

Ives Solitaire

Dorothy Ives, Solitaire

 

These three pieces, all of which feature stylized representational figures, are also the only ones in the exhibit which make direct comments on the contemporary world. The other piece in the room, Barbara Nepom’s “Leaves,” is bright and highly stylized, and its placement outside the main exhibit makes sense because of its coloration.

nepomLeaves

Barbara Nepom, Leaves

 

The larger body of the exhibit in the main galleries is also generally quite bright. Red tending toward rust dominates much of the art; the second most predominant color is chartreuse and lime green. However, the work is tasteful in its uses of the bright colors, and the presentation artful enough to make the pieces individualized, not blending into one another.

Janet Steadman’s “Again” and Janet Kurjan’s “Madrona” stood out as making excellent use of color modulations. A close second was Jeannette DeNicolas Meyer’s “Autumn.” Both Steadman and Meyer designed their colors to form a glowing spot within darker surrounds, which made the abstract imagery more flowing.

3 pieces

Janet Steadman Again

 

Kurjan Madrona

Janet Kurjan, Madrona

 

Meyer Autumn

JeannetteDeNicolas Meyer, Autumn

 

One piece which gathered accolades is Borg Hendrickson’s “Fences Two #9” It is intricate, yet cleanly designed; the placement of the strips into wedge shapes is important to the overall image; the black and white strips add a strong focal interest.

Hendrickson Fences Two #9

Borg Hendrickson, Fences Two #9

 

Cher Cartwright, who has three pieces in the exhibit, and whose “In the Course of the Motion” is the website signature piece, uses linear strips and swirls of energy radiating from circular forms. They are more modestly hued than the website images indicate but this does not diminish the success of the piece itself. Cory Volkert, whose “Kelp II” uses Sassaman-like forms, has a sophisticated surface of overlapping and echoing shapes.

aaccartwrightmotion.jpg

Cher Cartwright, In the Course of The Motion

 

aacvolkertkelp.jpg

Cory Volkert Kelp II

 

The piece that is top-notch is Toot Reid’s “Twenty.” Reid often has a seemingly simple schema in her work. She uses a background fabric in which the hue changes across its surface. On top of the background, she stitches raw edged 1 or 2 inch squares of another color. In this particular work, the background is red, and it is topped with small black squares stitched variously in black thread. The raw edges of the black fabric and the cut ends of the threads are left dangling as part of the design. The simplicity and starkness of the red and black combined with the variety among the black squares is most satisfying. The stitching is an important feature of this piece—adding a layer of design over the fabric layers that is like mysterious writing.

reid twenty

Toot Reid, Twenty

 

Abstract work dominates the exhibit although there are some natural images as well. The small representational floral pieces in the wide well-lit corridor between the front and the back of the gallery seem out of place in a high-end art venue. “Into the Woods, Autumn” by Bonnie Jean Thornton (which was sold) is particularly unsuccessful in its choice of fabrics and design. This particular mixture of organic and geometric shapes and hand-dyed and commercial representational fabric is jarring to the eye. The confusion of spatial distance is neither abstract nor realistic, so it adds to the problem of readability.

thornton woods

Bonney Jean Thornton, Into the Woods, Autumn

 

There isn’t much whimsy or humor in the exhibit, except for the “Pepperoni Pizza Mandala” by Linda Rudin Frizzell. “Pepperoni Pizza Mandala” is accessible, but it may be out of place because of its rigid symmetry and sugary color.

FRizzellPepperoni

Linda Rudin Frizzell, Pepperoni Pizza Mandala

 

The pieces are mostly moderate (around 3’x 5’) in size, including Reid’s and Erickson’s which in the past have been much bigger. A couple of the pieces have titles which seemed provocative, but they are attached to unexceptional imagery. “Not Just Another Anita Bryant Day” by Cher Cartwright and “It’s not My Fault Line” by Bonnie Brewer are both technically competent, but the titles give them more content than the work justifies.

Brewer Fault

Bonnie Brewer, It’s Not My Fault Line

 

The exhibit is a well-hung, well-lit, beautifully paced commercial venture, with well-crafted, well-designed, mostly “good” pieces. The strongest critique is that, in the end, it is very safe. No one will be offended, and no one’s heart is going to beat faster upon encountering this art. This is art that can definitely go over anyone’s couch.

This is Tammy and Craig Radford’s second art quilt exhibit. They plan to continue the biennial show as an invitational. Some edgier, not-so-nice pieces might have set off the other pieces and extended the visual range as well as adding interest to a larger number of buyers.

The exhibit is up until November 18 and can be seen in its entirety on the website, www.americanartco.com. All photos, with the exception of the site view, are courtesy of the American Art Company.