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Dairy Barn Unveils Quilt (R)evolution

by Kathleen Loomis

Quilt (R)evolutions exhibit at the Dairy Barn Art Center

Quilt (R)evolutions exhibit at the Dairy Barn Art Center

I’m just home from Athens, OH where I visited the Dairy Barn for its current show, an exciting collection of work from most of the people who have served as Quilt National jurors over the 35 years of that exhibit.  It was special because the participants were asked to send three pieces: one from their earliest work, one of their work at the time they were jurors, and one of their current work. And most of them actually sent exactly what was requested!

The too-clever title of the show, “quilt (R)evolution” is silly but accurate, because the quilts do clearly mark the evolution of the quilts-as-art genre.  Several of the oldest ones are only a step or two away from traditional — and Ann Johnston’s 1979 piece could have easily been made in 1879.

I’ve been obsessively following Quilt Nationals via catalog since 1983 and in person for at least 20 years (can’t remember exactly which one I first attended) so it’s not a surprise to me that quilts-as-art started so close to its traditional roots and took a few years to escape the conventions.  But it’s fun to be reminded of how the famous names we’re all familiar with started out, and how they got going in their own directions.

California II by Joan Schulze

California II by Joan Schulze

For instance, Joan Schulze started by making a big quilt that was the California winner in the big Good Housekeeping Quilts of America competition in 1976 — I remember that, even though I wasn’t much of a quilter at the time.  After it was photographed for the book (I think I have the book, too) her quilt and others were destroyed in a warehouse fire but after a long period of grieving she decided to remake it.  The design was original, with a batiked landscape in the center, but its wide border is composed of the traditional Road to California blocks (she did shock the viewers by making them in different colors to extend the landscape — blue for the sky, brown for the earth). Subsequently Schulze developed her signature style of using images appropriated from the media in collage-like photo-transferred and screenprinted compositions that remind me of Robert Rauschenberg.

March Study by Nancy Crow, 1979

March Study by Nancy Crow, 1979

Nancy Crow started with huge symmetrical quilts that were meticulously planned and intricately pieced from templates using commercial prints.  Subsequently she found that improvisationally free-cutting shapes from hand-dyed fabrics and building her compositions gradually on the wall was a more satisfying approach.

Heavens Reach by  Katie Pasquini Masopust, 1981

Heavens Reach by Katie Pasquini Masopust, 1981

Katie Pasquini Masopust‘s early quilt was a daring pentagon but executed in impeccably traditional craft from teeny calico prints.  Subsequently she started incorporating easel-painted canvas into her quilt constructions.

Other jurors went in different directions.  Michael James, after years of strip-pieced curves, embraced digital photography cranked out on a huge-format printer.  Yvonne Porcella started by making functional kimonos, then went flat (but kept her signature palette, brights with black-and-white).  Jan Myers-Newbury started by hand-dying solid gradations, then discovered arashi shibori and never looked back.

Practically all of the early pieces were hand-quilted, but as the years progress most of them switched to the machine.  Practically all the early ones were carefully pieced or appliqued with no raw edges, no messy craftsmanship of any kind, but as the years progress we see fusing, raw-edge applique, phototransfer, non-cloth materials and any number of experimental techniques emerge (for instance, Tim Harding’s latest work is “quilted” with staples).

For those of us who have been tuned in to the quilts-as-art movement for a long time, the show is a great walk down memory lane.  Fortunately all the pieces in the show still look fine (although Ann Johnston‘s, used on the bed for decades, has faded dramatically into the muted colors of vintage quilts).  For those of us who aren’t that familiar with the olden days of our little niche of the art world, the show will be an eye-opener: how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Unfortunately the catalog doesn’t reproduce the artist notes that appear on the walls of the Dairy Barn.  So, for instance, readers will probably think that Wendy Huhn‘s extravaganza of female fairies perched on irons is about the drudgery of housework, when it’s really about a lethal disease that causes too much iron to build up in one’s blood vessels and joints.  (I know how easy it is to leap to that conclusion, because I eavesdropped on two young guys explaining to one another quite solemnly how women’s work is never done, etc, before one of them thought to read the sign.)

The show remains up at the Dairy Barn through November 22 — see it if you can!

Kathleen Loomis retired from a career in journalism and corporate communication and now makes quilts and other forms of art from her home in Louisville KY.  Her work has been accepted into four Quilt Nationals and won the Quilts Japan Prize in QN ’09. Follow her blog at artwithaneedle.blogspot.com

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Quilt National ’15 call for entries

QuiltNational_logo_blueThe Dairy Barn Arts Center is pleased to announce the opening of entries to Quilt National ’15. As the Dairy Barn celebrates its 100th birthday, Quilt National begins its 19th biennial exhibition process. Entries for Quilt National ’15 are now being accepted online via the Dairy Barn website (www.dairybarn.org/quilt).

Quilt National ’15 will be the nineteenth in the series of international juried competitions dedicated to promoting the contemporary quilt by serving as a showcase for NEW work (completed after September 1, 2012) that provides the viewer with an appreciation of the variety of techniques and innovative trends in the medium of layered and stitched fabric. The jurors will select works that represent unique approaches to the medium and demonstrate the breadth and diversity of contemporary expressions. Typically over 1000 entries are received from 500 – 700 different artists. There are over $6000 worth of cash and prizes awarded to exhibiting artists.

This year’s panel of jurors includes:

Rosalie Dace

Rosalie Dace

Rosalie Dace (South Africa) Rosalie is a studio artist who has been embroidering and making quilts since the ’70’s. With a background in art and education, she finds exhibiting, teaching, and judging combine her interests admirably. She has taught, exhibited and judged internationally, and her work is in several private and public collections. While she values the traditions from which our quiltmaking has come, she believes that a quilt should say something about its time and place in history. This, and her awareness of being a South African artist, gives her work its particular character. To learn more about Rosalie go to her website: rosaliedace.co.za

Ann Johnston

Ann Johnston

Ann Johnston  (Oregon) Ann learned to sew, and then she learned to dye fabric. In between, she earned a B.A. in literature from Stanford University and taught for the Peace Corps in Peru, where she started her first quilt. In the mid 70s she started dyeing fabric and earned a Master’s degree in geography from the University of Oregon. Ann’s many years of exploration— dyeing and quilting as well as traveling–have led to worldwide friendships, piles of quilts and hand-dyed fabric, numerous exhibitions, six books, and a DVD. Her collectors respect her viewpoint and her students admire her generosity and skill in teaching what she knows. Please find more information on Ann’s web site, www.annjohnston.net

Judy Schwender

Judy Schwender

Judy Schwender (Kentucky) Judy Schwender became a quiltaholic in 1985 the first time she walked into a quilt shop.  In 2006 she obtained her Masters Degree in Textile history with an Emphasis in Quilt Studies and a minor in Museum Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She is a current Board Member of the American Quilt Study Group and has presented study centers on fiber identification at their seminars. She has written the block commentary for the New Quilts from an Old Favorite books series published by AQS.  Since 2004 she has been the Curator of Collections and Registrar at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky where she has curated over 34 exhibits.

Calendar

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 Deadline for submission of entry materials
OCTOBER 6, 2014 Notice of preliminary acceptance
MAY 22—24, 2015 Opening Weekend Receptions & Awards Ceremony
MAY 23, 2015 Quilt National ’15 opens to the public
SEPTEMBER 7, 2015 Exhibition closes at The Dairy Barn Arts Center

For a full copy of the prospectus, go to the Dairy Barn website at: dairybarn.org/quilt

The inaugural Quilt National exhibition was featured in 1979. Each biennial exhibition features 85 new, never before seen works by 85 different artists representing many of the 50 United States and numerous other countries. After its full exhibition at The Dairy Barn, the collection is divided into smaller collections and tours to venues across the US and around the world. The Dairy Barn Arts Center features an online gallery shop and Quilt National ’15 will feature a full color printed catalog.

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