Speaking in Cloth: 6 Quilters, 6 Voices

December 30, 2006

December 8 – February 19, 2007

Coos Art Museum
Coos Bay, OR 97420
(541) 267-3901
http://www.coosart.org/

Reviewed by Terry Grant
terry.grant@comcast.net

This exhibit by 6 Northwest Quilters was organized by Jeannette DeNicolis Meyer and Ann Johnston and was planned as a conversation between six artists, representing six quite different points of view. The work in the exhibit, about 48 pieces total, as well as in the accompanying book/catalog, is presented with statements from the artists about the topics of language, theme, voice, process, challenge and message. These themes were clearly serious points around which work was made and organized and they lend coherence to the exhibit. Quotes from the book for each of the topics are printed poster size and lead the viewer through the galleries and work. The artists and work were chosen for their diversity, yet the show remains focused and cohesive largely because of the use of these talking points.

Coos Bay seems an unlikely location as a cultural center, but the Coos Art Museum is the 3rd oldest in the state and presents consistently good and popular shows. Opening along with “Speaking in Cloth” were “Fine Focus” and an exhibit of pioneer quilts, in separate galleries in the Museum. The facilities are spacious and well-lighted and the exhibits beautifully hung. The museum has given pieces ample space, excellent signage and sensitivity to flow and compatibility of adjacent works. The view from the front lobby of the museum is through a large doorway into the main gallery. Several of the pieces contain elements in a sunny yellow that exudes a warm glow, pulling you irresistibly into the exhibit.

Nancy Erickson’s work is the most familiar to me. There are several pieces from her bear series, some of which is more than ten years old and quite familiar, if not overexposed, at this point. The most interesting is her newer pieces—two human figures, slightly larger than life-sized. These are painted velvet with appliqués and graffiti-like painted figures and symbols reminiscent of petroglyphs and cave paintings. Sophia’s Fire, a piece finished in the figure’s shape, with its separate fire, is particularly compelling, as Sophia engages the viewer with her mismatched eyes. (Note: this image was taken from Erickson’s web site. In Coos Bay, the figure and fire are displayed against a white wall.)

EricksonSophiesFire

Nancy Erickson, Sophie’s Fire

Ann Johnston, who is well-known for her practical and user-friendly books on dyeing, shows exciting new work that exhibits her mastery of fabric design and an ease and fearlessness in combining disparate elements into elegant and expressive statements that are at once mysterious and familiar. There is a lot of fabric painting and dyeing being done in the art quilt world. None of it is like Ann Johnston’s. Johnston’s fabrics are richly patterned with complex color and a sense of spontaneity and ease. Nothing seems forced or worked. Her work is abstract in the purest sense, without trickery or coy allusion.

AnnJohnstonBaselineAnn Johnston, Baseline

Baseline, a particularly satisfying piece, combines branching organic shapes, along with industrial-feeling grid pattern, echoed in the stitching, punctuated with bold calligraphic lines that suggest a kind of noise or a disturbance in the atmosphere that interrupts the baseline.

Jeannette DeNicolas Meyer’s most successful works, such as Contrapuntal, are characterized by beautiful color and graceful curving strands that intertwine and seem to dance across the surface. Taken by themselves these pieces are pleasing and harmonious.

MeyerContropuntal
Jeannette deNicolas Meyer, Contrapuntal

In the context of the exhibit they suffer a bit of blandness in contrast to the more dramatic work of the other artists. One piece, in particular, Flight Plan, which is interesting in the catalog, seemed to fade into the wall in the exhibit.

Quinn Zander Corum’s work is strikingly original and feels quite personal and vulnerable. Plotting the Past appears, from across the room, to be an intriguing grid pattern of round shapes. As you approach the piece the small differences in the shapes and the play of color across the piece continue to draw you closer. Close inspection reveals elegant stitching and tiny bits of beads and embroidery that make each individual section a small, beautiful composition.

CorumPlotting

Quinn Zander Corum, Plotting the Past

Trisha Hassler is another artist whose work I have watched for a number of years. She combines torch-cut, rusted metal with quilted fabric, which is rather hard to imagine, but very effective when seen. Her earlier work seemed more to be quilterly pieces, framed in metal. The new work integrates the metal and the fabric in subtle and beautiful interplay between the two. The rusted metal appears to mimic fabric patterning, while the manipulated fabrics show rust patterns and metallic sheen that speaks directly to the metal. An added pleasure of Hassler’s pieces is her intricate and beautifully executed means of connecting the parts and layers with stitching and wire and metal connectors

HasslerFinally

Trish Hassler, Finally

Cynthia Corbin’s work is the largest, and in some ways, the most effective of all the work exhibited. The piece below is 77” x 54” and most of her pieces are in that range. Its size is definitely a factor in its impact, but the use of beautiful fabrics, painting and the distinctive stitching give it an other-worldly quality. Corbin has two distinctive groups of work represented. One group is simple pieced patches of dyed and printed fabrics, including many shibori patterns, that suggest windows and human figures very abstractly. The others are large pieces that were painted after the quilting was done to emphasize the texture of the stitching. Adds Up combines elements of both. In all of her quilts the simple close quilting adds an element that both unifies and adds another visual layer to the richly layered surface.

CorbinAddsUp

Cynthia Corbin, Adds Up

The show, as a whole, is textured and diverse and ultimately tells a story of the 6 voices in an engaging way. I saw the show the night of the opening, then returned the following day and spent nearly as much time at the second viewing, seeing things that I had not seen the night before. The Coos Art Museum’s spacious galleries give you room to view work from a distance, as well as close up. Each artist has about 8 pieces in the show, so it requires time to absorb. The smallest pieces are Tricia Hassler’s that measure in the ranges from 16” to 40”. The largest are Cynthia Corbin’s. All the other work falls somewhere between, making it a show of nicely substantial work

After seeing the show I found the book mildly disappointing from a technical point of view because the color reproduction falls short. However the text is very illuminating and adds to one’s enjoyment and understanding of the work. I was also perversely disappointed to find that my favorite pieces, in most cases, are not included in the book.

An abbreviated version of the show (the pieces that are in the book) will travel to New Zealand when it leaves Coos Bay and will be seen at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, Colorado in December, 2008. It is currently being proposed for additional venues as well. The catalog may be purchased from the web sites of any of the 6 artists:

www.cynthiacorbin.com
www.quinnzandercorum.com
www.nancyerickson.com
www.trishahassler.com
www.annjohnston.net
www.jdmeyer.com
Ann Johnston is handling volume sales.


The Perils of PaMdora

December 21, 2006

The Perils of PaMdora – art quilts by Pam RuBert
Pool Art Center Gallery
Drury University
940 North Clay Avenue, Springfield, MO

December 1, 2006 – January 30, 2007
Rebecca Miller, Gallery Director
Department of Art and Art History

Reviewed by Emmie Seaman
eseaman@alltel.net
www.emmieseaman.com

Gallery

Gallery

In spite of having the opening postponed for a week due to an untimely snowstorm, Pam RuBert’s Perils of PaMdora was a pleasant relief to the unseasonable cold. This exhibit is presented in a small but quite adequate gallery in the Pool Art Center of Drury University which is well lit and has room for the 14 large and two small quilts to breathe. Preceding the opening, RuBert gave a one hour lecture/slide presentation describing how, after a lifetime of drawing, she only recently discovered quilt art as a way to showcase her cartoons. This information shared the fact that most of these quilts are autobiographical.

The first quilt seen, as one enters the gallery, is an earlier work by RuBert entitled Alien Invasion. Upon turning to the left, one sees large art quilts of bright colors with what appear to be simple designs but upon close inspection reveal complicated details and metaphors.

Alien Invasion

Alien Invasion

RuBert states that The Singing Telegram was inspired during a 4th of July celebration when she reflected upon being asked to jump out of a cake while employed by a singing telegram company. Up close, her monochromatic backgrounds reveal great details such as a clock with a beer theme, pictures on the wall, scenes outside the window, and various characters interacting.

Singing Telegram

Singing Telegram

Blue Christmas and Fresh depict the frustration we all feel when in similar situations; her cartoon approach proves that she laughs at herself and makes us laugh at ourselves.

Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas

Fresh

Fresh

Her technique of fusing cut fabric pieces to black fabric, cutting it out again, and fusing it to the background is reminiscent of the thick black lines in a coloring book. Due to the simplistic, but sophisticated, quality of the designs it is very effective. A grass- like, free motion quilting design on the grass and a quilted nose on PaMdora’s face are just a few examples of RuBert’s skill with free motion, machine quilting. Unfortunately, this is probably not visible to the viewers of these photographs.

There is also a four quilt series called Yoga 101 showing exaggerated yoga poses related to different foods. One might believe that RuBert enjoys her yoga exercises but doesn’t take them too seriously.

Pretzel Pose

Pretzel Pose

Crab Dip Pose

Crab Dip Pose

Cork Screw Pose

Corkscrew Pose

quilt-3_2.jpg

Banana Split Pose

In a corner of the gallery hangs another monochromatic piece, Metropolis, the only non-PamDora quilt in the exhibit . This heavily quilted work proves that RuBert has the ability to show us more than PaMdora. Even though the buildings have a cartoon quality, the works shows depth and technical skill; particularly the reflective quality of the water and the Van Gogh sky.


Metropolis

Metropolis

Towers of Babble, which depicts many landmark buildings in her city of residence, also speaks of her frustration with people and their cell phones, a frustration with which many of us can identify. This quilt typifies the growth of RuBert’s use of an almost monochromatic color scheme, and her design choice of the full background, depicting so much activity that the viewer cannot just glance at it, but is drawn closer to study details, become amused, and go away laughing but appreciative of her humor and talent.

Tower of Babble

Tower of Babble

To the right of the gallery entrance is an area almost separated from the rest of the space. Here, RuBert chose to create a studio installation. She states that when the gallery director visited her studio and saw her doodles, cartoons, fabric stash, and all the paraphernalia that she either uses or by which she is inspired, she was asked to try to include some of it in her exhibit to show the students of the University what goes into making her art quilts. Displayed is her next quilt, progressing from the pencil doodles, to the computer doodles, to the tiled computer drawing, patterns, and the partially finished quilt on the wall. Surrounding all of this are collectibles from her studio that actually make little art installations in and of themselves. Fortunately this area is somewhat isolated from the rest of the exhibit or it would detract from the whole show. One can spend much time roaming though the area studying what inspires RuBert and what makes RuBert tick.

Installation

Studio installation

For this reviewer, this exhibit was a joyous experience of seeing large, colorful, and well executed art quilts. More of Pam RuBert’s work and all of the quilts in her exhibit, including detail shots, can be seen on her website. I encourage you to follow her journey in the quilt world for, in myopinion, she has just begun to speak.