by Betsy Mowry
A stop at the Minnesota Textile Center provides an unexpected treat for those who might anticipate a collection of country style displays of stuffed calico cats, rag rugs and Laura Ashley-like outfits. The current exhibition in the Joan Mondale Gallery, Traditions Transformed: Contemporary Quilts, is a colorful display of 13 quilts by some of the nation's most talented textile artists.
Each artist uses his or her own distinct approach to quilting, which makes for a diverse and interesting exhibit that prompts viewers to contemplate a favorite. Some quilters focus on the design of the material, while others use appliqué,
hand painting and stamping, or intricate fabric piecing to create the piece.
know quilter Jan Myers-Newbury, who selected the work in this exhibit, is known
for her geometric quilts that use hand-dyed fabrics. Newbury’s two pieces,
“Fenestra” and “Cats Game 1” attest to her flair for creating
beautiful cloth and complementary compositions. Her dyeing technique, called “Shibori,”
involves stitching and scrunching the fabric and sometimes wrapping it around
a pole or rope to create a design. The result is a wave-like effect of color,
which she emphasizes with free-motion stitches across the pieces.
In other work, Carol Taylor of Pittsford, N.Y., sews together 72 banded blocks,
each comprised of fabric strips that are pieced vertically and horizontally. Her
use of lighter colors, such as white, gold and yellow in the upper right corner
draws the viewer's eyes slowly toward the darker hues of blue, black and purple
in the lower left section. Looking like an aerial view of a fantastical farm field,
the quilt draws you in to take a closer look at the distinct design of each block.
Quite different from Taylor’s piece is “Secrets” by Brian Dykhuizen,
which looks like a square of black and white scribbles surrounding a bright block
of multi-colored scribbles in the center. Amazingly, the quilt is constructed
of thousands of fabric strips, some hand-dyed, with an over-stitch holding the
strands together beneath the thread.
“Anemone” by Seattle’s Cameron Anne Mason is the only sculptural
form in this exhibit. This free form, hand-dyed chartreuse and royal blue fabric
bowl is perched lightly at an angle, using shape and multi-colored thread to generate
a sense of nature and movement.
Diane Steffen’s “Japanese Girl” pieces vibrant, complementary
fabrics together with silk and beaded embellishments to show a figure holding
a parasol amidst cherry blossoms. Steffen uses long chain stitches to create elaborate
floral and decorative designs on the quilt that accentuate the various fabrics.
Two art quilts by Barbara W. Watler give viewers a magnified scene of nature.
Watler uses appliqué and reverse appliqué to add texture and dimension
to her handiwork. Large 5- to 8-inch appliquéd and hand-painted insects
chew holes in the leaves on “Tropical Snowball Leaf (Generci for Domboya),”
while design and stitching give the quilt a feel of realism and depth. Her “Faux
Fungi” seems almost abstract, with strong elements of positive and negative
space. The quilt is hand painted using prisma color pencils with whole cloth reverse
appliqué. Watler’s background as an illustrator is strongly represented
in her work. ||
Traditions Transformed: Contemporary Quilts runs through April
29 in the Textile Center, 3000
University Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-436-0464. Gallery hours are Mon.–Thu. noon–7
p.m.; Fri. noon–4 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.