Last Thursday a friend and I sojourned to Athens, Ohio, best known as the home of Ohio University, party school central. Athens is also the home of Quilt National, held since 1979 at the Dairy Barn Arts Center.
We were there for the current (until November 22) show called “Quilt (R)Evolution: Art Quilt Retrospective 1979-2014.” It features the work of 28 Quilt National jurors, who were asked to contribute one early work, one work made at the time they were a juror, and one work that represents their current work.
Just to give you a sample of the artists represented: Nancy Crow (of course,) Michael James, Jan Myers-Newbury, Yvonne Porcella, Elizabeth Busch, Joan Schulze, Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, Arturo Sandoval, Liz Axford, Paula Nadelstern, Sue Benner, Katie Pasquini Masopust, Eleanor McCain, Judith Content, Rosalie Dace, and Ann Johnston.
Photographs weren’t allowed, so I’ve searched online for images to share. In some cases, I’m using photos of work similar to that in the exhibit.
I’m linking to a post Kathy Loomis wrote about this exhibit. The first photo below was taken by her. And I just found a site that shows all the quilts, so if you want to see every (I think) quilt in the show, go here for a slide show. I have no idea how this ended up on a photo sharing site, but I’m unable to copy any of the pictures.
Here’s the view looking right from the entry door. A piece by Yvonne Porcella is to the right, one by Nancy Crow (current work) is center, and the kimono (early work) to the left is by Yvonne Porcella.
An early Michael James piece from the same era, about 1983. This isn’t the one in the show, but the curving drunkards path style is close. I see that both Nancy and Michael liked striped fabric.
Some artists, like Jan Myers-Newbury, seemed to have always worked with one aspect of quilting – hand dyed fabrics in her case – though their designs have changed over time.
Here’s her Electric Blanket from 1978. She hand dyed gradients, cut the fabric into squares, and arranged the squares to form a color progression. Her 2013 piece in the show, Sticks and Bones, uses color gradients as well. Almost all her work over the past decade has used arashi shibori.
Generally, the artists’ work seems to have loosened up over the years.
I was surprised not to see a lot of change in the work of Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry. It may be she’s always used hand dyes, so the fabrics don’t date her work. Here’s her works, in chronological order.
On The Wings of A Dream from 2008 (Read more about this quilt here.)
The quilting on this is beyond exquisite. It’s the most elaborate quilting in the show, and must be seen in person to appreciate. Or you can buy it for $61,000.
Speaking of quilting, since a quarter to a third of the pieces were done before 1990, there’s more hand quilting than is the norm today. Also, as my friend pointed out, wall hanging type quilts just weren’t as densely quilted then. In general, the machine quilting used enhances the pieces but doesn’t upstage them.
Some artists truly began in traditional quilting. Rosalie Dace contributed the second quilt she ever made, and I never would have surmised her later art quilt career from it. Ann Johnston contributed a traditional bed quilt she made for a family member.
In terms of fabrics, works of artists who used hand dyed fabric have a more timeless quality than those made with commercial fabrics. Here’s an 1981 work, Heaven’s Reach, by Kate Pasquini-Masopust that can be dated by its fabric. Cotton blends appear in other works on exhibit as well, and the colors of commercial fabrics are very period (and often ugly.)
With some artists, you can see increased technical mastery over time, though for the most part the techniques are handled well even in early work. I didn’t see a lot of digital imagery on fabric, which may reflect the age of over half the pieces shown. At the 2013 Quilt National I was struck by the number of pieces built on digital photos.
Please enjoy the slide show of these works, and if by some chance you find yourself in southeast Ohio make a point of visiting the Dairy Barn before the show closes.