Textile news

Textile & Fiber Art

JUNE 2018

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Worth a visit to New York City:

Museum of Modern Art, New York, Celebrates Agnes Gund

Through July 22, MoMA is featuring Studio Visit: Selected Gifts from Agnes Gund, who is 80 years young this year.  Since 1967 she has served in several capacities at MoMA, including president from 1991 until 2002.  This amazing woman has championed women’s art and non-traditional mediums such as fiber, exploring artists’ studios and becoming friends with numerous makers who today are recognized as major figures.  Nick Cave, for example, caught Gund’s interest with his performance art well before he was widely known in the art world. “My friendships with artists,” she has said, “as well as a sensitivity to the challenges facing women artists and artists of color, have been formative in shaping my collection, which is deeply personal and deeply autobiographical.” This exhibition reflects the depth of her collecting by bringing together a broad-ranging group of artworks from the 1950s to today. Agnes Gund has funded some 800 works of art for the MoMA permanent collection. Studio Visit: Selected Gifts from Agnes Gund was organized by Ann Temkin.

Mary Lee Bendolph (Gee’s Bend), Lonnie Holley’s Freedom, 2005. Aquatint and etching from pieced quilt top, Paulson Press, Berkeley, edition of 50.












Willie Cole, Domestic I.D. IV, 1992. Steam iron scorch and pencil on paper, mounted in recycled wooden window frame.











Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2001. Found objects, knit head and bodysuit, mannequin.

Terry Adkins, Methane Sea, 2013. Wood, welded steel, rope, tape.











Museum of Arts and Design: Decoration as an Artistic Strategy

Curated by Elissa Auther, Surface/Depth: The Decorative After Miriam Schapiro runs through September 9. Filling the fourth and fifth floors of the museum, this momentous exhibition presents 29 works by Schapiro in dialogue with 28 pieces by other artists. As Auther explains, In examining the aesthetic and political objectives of Schapiro’s femmages,this exhibition highlights the pivotal role her work and leadership played in the expansion of the art world to include historically marginalized forms of craft, decoration, and abstract patterning associated with femininity and women’s work. Although she is unheralded as the source, the influence of Schapiro’s subjective approach to forms of decoration can be identified today in an remarkably diverse group of artists who continue to find inspiration in her embrace of artistic practices outside the art historical canon. To highlight this legacy, works by a select group of contemporary artists, including Sanford Biggers, Josh Blackwell, Edie Fake, Jeffrey Gibson, Judy Ledgerwood, Jodie Mack, Sara Rahbar, Ruth Root, and Jasmin Sian, will be exhibited alongside Schapiro’s signature femmages. This juxtaposition of historic and contemporary work brings into critical focus the tremendous role Schapiro’s femmages played in the reframing of craft and decoration, while shining a light on the way artists today, both distinguished and emerging, continue to approach the decorative as a language of abstraction tied to the personal and the political.

Miriam Schapiro, In Her Own Image, 1983. Acrylic paint and fabric on canvas. Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Detail of Miriam Schapiro, In Her Own Image, 1983.









Sanford Biggers, Ooo Oui, 2017. Textiles, fabric, antique quilt fragment, sequins.

Sara Rahbar, Flag #5, Kurdistan, 2007. Mixed media.











Josh Blackwell, detail of Neveruses à Table (me and LP), 2018. Plastic, fiber, wood.











Jeffrey Gibson, Speak to Me in Your Way So That I Can Hear You, 2015. Driftwood, hardware, wool, canvas, glass beads, artificial sinew, metal jingles, nylon fringe, acrylic, high fire glazed ceramic. (Behind this work is Miriam Schapiro, Mexican Memory, 1981.)

Detail of Jeffrey Gibson, Speak to Me in Your Way So That I Can Hear You, 2015.


















MAD is also showing Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft &  Care. Founded by Aguiñiga and launched in 2015, AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides) is a long-term initiative that activates sites along the US–Mexico border through collaborative art-making and storytelling projects. Started as a month-long activation at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, it has evolved its focus to record and paint a picture of life along the length of the border. To date, AMBOS, in collaboration with artists and community organizations working with border issues/themes, has produced programs along the border between the United States and Mexico, stopping at thirteen US/Mexico ports of entry, and crossing a total of forty times. In 2018 Aguiñiga will complete the project, activating the remainder of the border from where she left off at El Paso/Ciudad Juárez. AMBOS was born out of Aguiñiga’s drive to use her skills in service to the ongoing issues that her family and community face in Tijuana, Mexico, where she was raised, and from which she crossed the border every day for fourteen years to get her education in the United States. Through the different phases of the project, AMBOS has fostered a greater sense of interconnectedness in the border regions it has visited. AMBOS as a project has become multifaceted: it is part documentation of the border, part collaboration with artists, part community activism, part exploration of identities influenced by the liminal zone of the borderlands. By connecting with local artists, activists, and makers in the border region, AMBOS works to capture an accurate representation of the sister cities and communities living and working on both sides. Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care, curated by Shannon R. Stratton, closes October 2. Be sure to climb the stairs to the second-floor gallery, reading the messages printed on the stair risers for this very timely exhibition.

Tanya Aguiñiga, CRAFT Weave, 2015. Seventy-five deconstructed Mexican blankets,

Detail of Tanya Aguiñiga, CRAFT Weave, 2015.


Treasure of a Museum in North Carolina

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Bill Blass, Day Ensemble, 1997-98; wool-blend tweed, fox, muskrat

Last month I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, mostly to view Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Flair, open until January 21. This exhibition explores the 50-year history of the Ebony Fashion Fair (1958–2009), an unparalleled charity fashion show event that redefined the concepts of beauty, style, and empowerment for African Americans. A spectacle of glamour and performance, the traveling fashion show grew out of the pages of Ebony magazine (first published in 1945). Similar to the publication, the fashion event provided transformative images of African Americans as beautiful and successful. The NCMA exhibition features 40 outfits along with vintage videos of African-American models, who look like they are having a ball displaying the clothes.

Emanuel Ungaro, Evening Dress, 1987-88; silk satin, taffeta

Pierre Cardin, Evening Dress, 1988-89; synthetic knit, plastic sequins

Yves Saint Laurent, Evening Dress, 1979-80; silk taffeta, satin




Patrick Dougherty, Out of the Box, 2009; red maple saplings

I also experienced several wonderful surprises in the museum, including Patrick Dougherty’s vast fiber sculpture that covers the entire long wall of the dining area. This installation is so overwhelming that I had to sit with my back to it so I could manage to eat my lunch. The piece swirls and dips, dominating the space like a series of giant nests, dwarfing museum visitors. The NCMA owns a quilt-related work by Robert Rauschenberg created more than two decades after his famous Bed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In Credit Blossom (Spread) the artist incorporated a worn antique sampler quilt as the central image in a piece concerned with time. Andrea Donnelly’s solo exhibition titled We’ve Met Before consists of several subtle references to the human body. This North Carolina native describes her aesthetic approach: “Cloth, in its infinite and varied significance, is deeply linked to our histories and emotions through the body. Whether it’s woven to hang on the wall or to grace the neck and shoulders, I make cloth that creates connection.” One final treat at the NCMA is one of the best “tapestries” by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui that I have ever seen. The warm hues and rippling surface of Lines That Link Humanity are true to its title. This monumental work, viewed upon entering the museum, draws visitors to it like a visual Pied Piper.

Robert Rauschenberg, Credit Blossom (Spread), 1978; solvent transfer, quilt, other fabrics on paperboard applied to gessoed wood panel

Andrea Donnelly, Temporal Cartography #3, 2017; cotton thread, textile pigment

El Anatsui, Lines That Link Humanity, 2008; discarded aluminum, copper wire (produced in a workshop using student assistants)

El Anatsui, detail of Lines That Link Humanity



Report from Houston (November 2017)

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Only a small part of the 2017 IQF experience in Houston.

Very  exciting to be in Houston when the Astros won the World Series!  After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, this city needed a celebration.  I am spending a week in Houston to attend the 2017 International Quilt Festival, and wanted to share several images from Festival.  This event never fails to astonish me, with seamless (so to speak) transitions from antiques to contemporary traditional quilts to art quilts.

Part of SAQA’s juried exhibition Masterworks: Abstract & Geometric.

The 70,273 Project, curated by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, with each double”X” commemorating a disabled person murdered by Nazi Germany. Many of the quilts from this ongoing worldwide project could be seen at Festival.

Danny Amazonas, Abyss, a recent textile extravaganza, fused and stitched with invisible thread. Inspired by the world’s 2nd largest aquarium, in Okinawa.

From the blockbuster solo show of 75 quilts by a remarkable Texan maker, Remembering Sue Garman: Traditional Talent Extraordinaire.

Bern House Quilt, c. 2010. 156 blocks interpreting the city of Bern, Switzerland.








































Storyline: The Contemporary Quilt 

This fall, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft presents a survey of several noteworthy artists that highlights the spectrum of contemporary quilt-making techniques and traditions. Storyline brings together a diverse selection of quilters, including Kathryn Clark, Luke Haynes, Carolyn Mazloomi, Aaron McIntosh, and Anna Von Mertens, who document their stories as well as commenting on broader cultural narratives.  Through January 7.

Michael James, detail from Adrift, 2017. Poignant and personal.

Sandra Gschwandtner, Quilts in Women’s Lives V, 2014. A small work pieced in 16 mm film that packs a visual wallop with backlighting.

Anna Von Mertens, Arrangement in Gray and Black’s Aura, 2009. This haunting quilt interprets the “aura” of the figure in Whistler’s Mother.

Kathryn Clark, detail from The Russia Project.





























Carolyn Mazloomi, detail from Wrapped in Love, 2016.














Glamour And Romance of Oscar de la Renta

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston has organized a world-class tribute to the late Oscar de la Renta.  While I am not very interested in fashion per se, his inspired costume-like creations are fascinating and  the detail work in his ensembles and gowns prompts my creativity.  Through January 28.

Oscar de la Renta for Pierre Balmain, 1999-2000. I love the incredible pleated ribbon applique,

Oscar de la Renta, showing the Spanish influence of Balenciaga.


Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

My exhibition lectures for the Texas Quilt Museum now available online

I am pleased to offer my narrated slide lectures created for several of the TQM exhibitions during the past four years. Simply click on the web site below to visit the sign-in page on my  website and use the password “artclass” to log in and see this free content. Please note that your version of PowerPoint must be fairly recent, with the “pptx” file extension, and that the lectures are copyright of the Texas Quilt Museum and images are copyright of the artists.
The first six lectures in the series are:

Selections from 500 Traditional Quilts
America, the Beautiful
My Stars! Antique Quilts
Semper Tedium: Quilt Art by Katherine Knauer, Paula Nadelstern, Amy Orr, and Robin Schwalb
Selections from the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection
New York Beauty Quilts from the Volckening Collection


FABULOUS EXHIBITION at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC

Entrance to the American Folk Art Museum, Columbus Avenue at 66th Street, quite close to Lincoln Center. Photo by Gavin Ashworth


War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics, on view until January 7 at the American Folk Art Museum.  If that witty title catches your fancy, wait until you see this exhibition!  It has been a long time since I forgot to breathe while viewing a quilt. These pieces, most of them created by soldiers under duress or recovering in hospitals, will overwhelm your imagination.  Also, because much of the fabric is bright red wool (from the “red coats”), the patterning and images imprint deeply into your senses.  The exhibition consists of 29 textiles and eight associated objects, dated from 1719 through the late 19th century. Most are from the Annette Gero Collection, with the balance from AFAM, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, and a few other collections.

“What is extraordinary about the quilts in this exhibition is the range of techniques used and the painstaking detail in their creation, and the fact that they are made by men,” commented Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, executive director, American Folk Art Museum.   “Men, who are not usually raised learning the sewing arts, show both design acumen and manual dexterity as they sewed pieces of military uniforms, blankets, and other bits of fabric into quilts of great beauty. These quilts offer an insight into military life and the need for creative expression even during times of war.” Perhaps the best-known quilts that were made by soldiers and regimental tailors are the complex geometrics fashioned from felted military uniforms. Hand-stitched by nineteenth-century British soldiers, sailors, and regimental tailors during periods of conflict in the Crimea, South Africa, and India, some of these mosaic-like quilts contain as many as twenty-five thousand pieces of fabric. They were once called “convalescent quilts,” it was believed they were made as occupational therapy by wounded soldiers recovering in hospitals. Quilts pieced in simple geometric patterns may indeed have been made in such circumstances, but it is now recognized that the most elaborate quilts were most probably stitched by tailors and soldiers to pass the time and stay out of mischief, to give as gifts to loved ones at home, or were made upon a soldier’s return.

“In the context of war, quilt making becomes a life-affirming testament to bravery, loyalty, and an    act of redemption for darker human impulses enacted under dire circumstances,” says Stacy C. Hollander, co-curator of the show. “Memory and experience are fragmented and brilliantly reconstructed through tiny bits of cloth. The uniforms, associated with the best and worst of humanity, are thus transformed into testaments of sanity and beauty, even as the highly organized geometry grants the soldier an illusion of control over the predations of war in which he has both participated and witnessed.”


Soldier’s Mosaic Quilt, artist unidentified. Crimea, India, or United Kingdom, c. 1850. Wool with applied cording; inlaid; hand-corded, 93.5 x 75.5 in. Collection International Quilt Study Center & Museum,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2017.002.0001

Beaded Soldier’s Quilt, artist unidentified. India, c. 1860–1870. Wool, with beads; inlaid; hand-appliqued and hand-applied beadwork, 63 x 63 in. The Annette Gero Collection. Photo by Tim Connolly, Shoot Studios

Intarsia Quilt with Soldiers and Musicians, artist unidentified; initialed “J.S.J.” Prussia, c. 1760–1780. Wool, with embroidery thread; intarsia; hand-appliqued and hand-embroidered, 55 x 43 in. The Annette Gero Collection. Photo by Tim Connolly, Shoot Studios




Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Because there are only so many hours in a day, this post regretfully will be my final regular blog published each month. As much as I have enjoyed writing this blog for the past two years, I enjoy working in my studio even more! From time to time I hope to share books, exhibitions, and web sites with you, but my new job as editor of Art Quilt Quarterly requires many hours of my time.  You might be interested in subscribing to the magazine (formerly Art Quilt Collector). To do so, click on “Store” at the bottom of the banner in www.saqa.com.  The magazine has a “Focus on Commissions” feature, for which I would be interested in knowing about any major art quilt commissions you have completed: editor-aqq@saqa.com

Laura Petrovich-Cheney, Big Deal, 2015, scrap wood “quilt.”


Reclaiming the Past by Laura Petrovich-Cheney

Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey and New York in 2012, when I happened to be out of the country.  A friend sent me a nighttime photograph taken from Brooklyn looking toward Manhattan, which was completely dark.  While I feared for the city, my next thought was “Oh, no! What about the Jersey shore?”  New Jersey artist Laura Petrovich-Cheney was there.  Her solo exhibition  of five wooden “scrap quilts” at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts has the poignant title What Remains. Using traditional and contemporary quilt patterns, Petrovich-Cheney creates complex and vibrant forms from Hurricane Sandy debris that was salvaged by the artist from dumpsters, refuse piles, and local waste stations. Her meaningful practice explores issues of loss, identity, memory, and renewal. Ultimately, the work symbolizes the beauty of enduring misfortune and creating something meaningful from the wreckage.  By referring to her works as quilts, this artist situates herself in the historical continuum of content-laden memorial quilts. The exhibition opened on October 22, 2016, the four-year anniversary of the day Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey shore, and closes on November 12 of this year.



Apple Cobbler Boots. Photo courtesy of Mickey McGowan.

Celebrating Handmade at the Museum of Arts and Design (NYC)

Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture celebrates the handmade fashion and style of the 1960s and 1970s. Often referred to as the hippie movement, the Counterculture swept away the conformism of the previous decade and professed an alternative lifestyle whose effects still resonate today. Moved by the rejection of a materialist and consumerist interpretation of the American Dream, Counterculture youths embraced ideals of self-sufficiency and self-expression. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movements, hippies, flower children, and idealistic young people shunned the cultural standards of their parents, embraced the struggle for racial and gender equality, used drugs to explore altered states of consciousness, and cultivated a renewed dimension of spirituality. The show embraces craftsmanship, cultural commentary, and critical thinking in fashion practices—from the couture to the conceptual—across multiple generations. In keeping with MAD’s dedication to investigating studio process in modern and contemporary art and craft, this exhibition highlights how fashion, as an expanded field of craft, serves as a platform for artists and designers to explore ways of making that champion artistry, expressiveness, and social responsibility—from concept to product. Organized by Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington, and curated by Guest Curator Michael Cepress, closing on August 20.


Saeko Hasumuro, Prayer for Peace, cloth quilt.


13th Quilt Nihon at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

The 13th Quilt Nihon Exhibition features more than 30 quilts from the Japan Handicraft Instructors’ Association, an organization that has promoted handcraft arts through training and publications in Japan for nearly half a century. On display are quilts made by some of the most talented and respected artists from Japan and the Pacific Rim. The 13th Quilt Nihon Exhibition, in accepting quilts designed along both traditional and contemporary lines, seeks to collect the best examples of modern Japanese quilt making. The JHIA Encouragement Award for quilters under the age of 35 also serves to promote the future of this vibrant art form. The exhibition continues until October 25.





Wendy Huhn, The Collector, 2010, cloth quilt with surface design processes.


Visions Art Museum Explores Humor in Contemporary Quilt Art

San Diego’s Vision Art Museum presents Funny Bone, 28 quilts featuring various takes on humor by six artists: David Charity, Jamie Fingal, Wendy Huhn, Nancy Lemke, Pam Rubert, and Kathy Weaver. Beth Smith, curator, explains the concept behind this exhibition: “ I felt that the best part of curating this exhibition was inviting a group of artists who all work differently and who approach the theme of humor differently. And yet even with the diverse interpretations of humor and with the diverse techniques used in the work, the light-hearted feeling continues throughout the exhibition.” Closing on October 8.






Installation photo from the Jean Lovell collection of antique quilts.


Jane Lovell’s Collection at the Shelburne Museum

Jean Lovell, a resident of Carmel, California and longtime friend of Shelburne Museum, has been collecting historic bedcovers since 1979. Pieced Traditions: Jean Lovell Collects features donations and loans from Lovell’s collection of historic quilts. Assembled over more than three decades, the collection is particularly rich in colorful, eye-catching designs. Highlights in this exhibition of 11 quilts include dazzling Amish and Mennonite quilts from the 19th and 20th centuries. The show is on view until October 31.




JULY 2017

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Book of the Month

 Artistry in Fiber, Vol. 1: Wall Art

This new book from Schiffer is edited by Anne Lee and E. Ashley Rooney, with a foreword by Marcia Young and introduction by Meredith Re’ Grimsley. Known for showcasing fiber and textile art, Schiffer has assembled a stellar team for this first volume of Artistry in Fiber, containing 595 color images in 224 pages. Their blurb is enticing: “Connecting us to the wide variety of contemporary fiber art in wall-mounted format, this resource combines…photos with personal comments from 100 of today’s established and emerging artists.… The creators here are pushing the boundaries of what wall-mounted fiber art is, using fibers of paper, metal, fiberglass, milkweed seeds, or high-tech polymers….Artists [in the book] expertly combine different fiber techniques in a single piece, go beyond the technical processes, and cross-pollinate mediums.” (Disclaimer: several of my own quilts are in this book.) Available in late July.



Regina Benson. Burning Monoliths, first created in 2015, 104 x 28 x 28 x 14 in. (5 monoliths in the current exhibition).

Regina V. Benson at the Textile Center in Minneapolis

Regina Benson, who lives in Colorado, brings her textile surfaces to life with a variety of hands-on processes. She describes her new solo show for my blog readers, “In Wildfires I have brought together an experiential textile installation of my burning monoliths, digitized hillside flames, celestial fires, and volcanic eruptions to explore our universal consciousness of the beauty and fear of fire. I have created a living sculptural environment in which visitors can pass around and between fiery giants that glow from within at various stages of ignition, to experience glowing surface designs that flicker from ember to flame.” Her interactive exhibition involves two major installations and four three-dimensional pieces of wall art. In the Joan Mondale Gallery, closing on August 26.






Sheila Hicks. Hop, Skip, Jump, and Fly: Escape from Gravity, 2017 installation on the High Line, New York.

Sheila Hicks Works Her Magic on the High Line

Textured color, the hallmark of this renowned fiber sculptor, swoops and loops in monumental forms around the western rail yards of Manhattan’s High Line park. Currently in their most dynamic presentation, the fibrous tubes in Hop, Skip, Jump, and Fly: Escape from Gravity will change with the seasons, partly veiled by leaves in the autumn and most likely echoed by snow and ice this winter. Through March 2018.





Joana Vasconcelos. Viriato, 2005, 29.5 inches high. Collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Revival at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

A survey of the museum’s collection in its 30th year inspired this exhibition, which is enriched by important loans from public and private collections as well as artists’ studios. While the NMWA (Washington, DC) owns some important sculptural works, acquiring more textile and fiber pieces would help to balance the collection. Chief curator Kathryn Wat informs us, “Revival presents contemporary women sculptors and photo-based artists whose arresting aesthetics and intense subject matter spur the viewer into a transcendent encounter with the art object. Spectacle and visual enchantment undergird much contemporary art. Yet the artists gathered here harness the illimitability of scale, technique, and effect in sculpture and photography explicitly to reanimate deep-rooted emotions related to the human experience.” A few of my favorite fiber artists are in this show, including Beverly Semmes and Joana Vasconcelos, who is Portuguese. Her wittily crocheted Viriator is named after a heroic figure in ancient Lusitania who battled the Romans. Here he is reduced to a seated dog, his military fervor chained by the soft medium of fiber. Until September 10.





Ken Lum. The Path from Shallow Love to Deeper Love, 2015, wool, 118 x 79 in. Photo: Jerry Birchfield, (c) MOCA Cleveland 2016.

Wall To Wall: Carpets By Artists at the Katonah Museum of Art

Wall to Wall presents a highly original take on a material that, while occupying a familiar role in our daily lives, is only now gaining wide recognition in the contemporary art world as a source for a diverse array of artists,” says Darsie Alexander, Executive Director of the Katonah Museum of Art (Katonah, NY). “This exhibition builds on the KMA’s history of introducing innovative perspectives on seemingly utilitarian mediums—such as clay and glass—showcasing the material’s surprising elasticity in the hands of artists. Such unexpected encounters offer a glimpse into an artist’s imagination and can prompt us to experience domestic items anew.” Unlike exhibitions that examine artist carpets through an ethnographic lens, Wall to Wall takes as its point of departure the history of art, focusing on the ways in which the medium advances relevant explorations in contemporary artistic practice. The exhibition examines the increasing prominence of carpets in today’s art sphere and asks the simple question: Why? Artists in the show include Polly Apfelbaum, Alan Belcher, Guillaume Bijl, Liam Gillick, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Joseph Kosuth, Ken Lum, Marilyn Minter, Sarah Morris, Paulina Olowska, Jorge Pardo, Richard Prince, Julião Sarmento, Rosemarie Trockel, Christopher Wool, and Heimo Zobernig, with dates spanning 1985 to 2016. The exhibition was organized by MOCA Cleveland and curated by Dr. Cornelia Lauf, independent curator. On view From July 9 until October 1.



JUNE 2017

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Sarah Swett, Rough Copy #6: Postage Due.

Marginalia – Tapestries by Sarah Swett (closing on July 30)

I discovered this fascinating exhibition in Rebecca Mezoff’s blog, where she succinctly describes the collection: “I was able to go see her new show at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner, Washington…. This is most likely the last time she’ll be exhibiting her Rough Copy series all together and it is not to be missed. This series of work consists of 13 large-format tapestries in which she weaves part of a novel she wrote. The story is fun to read in part because there are blanks in the narrative. You have to decide what happened between each vignette. The words are woven on various scraps of paper: hotel stationary, a grocery receipt, a library card. Some are burned, some are torn. There are coffee stains and ink splatters and you get to meet a very good-looking mule.”  Mezoff offers several informative photos from the exhibition:


Carson Davis Brown, NAQ 20, 2015. Consumer goods arranged on store shelves.


New American Quilt installations by Carson Davis Brown

What is a quilt? You might well ask that question when assessing the recent work of Carson Davis Brown. I will let the artist explain: “New American Quilts (NAQ) is a site-specific installation and photographic project simulating branded edifice and the promise of abundance, inspired by the tradition of American quilting… Adopting the formal conventions of the big box store as constraint, the patchworks are built on-site from found materials and products. These highly geometric arrangements are made without permission and left until disassembled by consumers and staff. Photographs of the patchworks are then ‘woven’ into blankets with the assistance of W@lm@rt’s personalized gifts department. Most recently, my process has focused on breaking-down the most basic element of this project: the quilt itself. For me, the quilt has a ton of potential as an art object because of its ingrained cultural, social, and historical weight.”


Lucy Sparrow in her 8 ‘Till Late installation in a storefront near Manhattan’s High Line, 9000 objects in felt.

8 ‘Till Late: Lucy Sparrow’s “store” in felted objects

Another art installation consisting of consumer items found in a storefront caught my eye this month. But these life-sized goods are made of felt—some 9000 objects, all for sale at affordable prices. While British artist Lucy Sparrow no longer crafts each piece herself, she does all the lettering. Her compulsion to produce multiples and meticulously reproduce mundane objects stems from this artist’s need to celebrate small, traditional businesses and the people who run them in the face of aggressive gentrification. Note that for this photograph she chose to cradle a “Brillo box” in her arm, perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to Warhol. Located at 69 Little West 12th Street in NYC, through June 30.


José Benítez Sánchez, Detail from Nierika and Tukari (The Gifts of Vision and Life), 2005.
 Yarn on wood. Artes de
México collection.

Yarn paintings from Mexico at the Textile Museum of Canada

Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light showcases the art and lives of the Huicholes, an Indigenous group from western Mexico whose history dates back 15,000 years. Featuring dazzling yarn paintings created using traditional techniques, the exhibition includes ceremonial objects, handmade textiles, and photographs documenting a unique and threatened way of life. This Toronto exhibition, on loan from Artes de México, closes on September 4.


Roz Chast, Motherboard, hand embroidery as published for the New Yorker magazine cover, May 15, 2017.


Motherboard by Roz Chast

Last but by no means least, the amazing Roz Chast has returned to hand embroidery! This famous cartoonist—one of the very few who can make me laugh out loud—is crafting some of her images in thread. See the web site below for additional examples. Finally, and this has nothing to do with art, she has published a graphic memoir about dealing with her aging parents, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? After reading it, I bought a copy for both of my children. If you are a parent or have living parents, I encourage you to buy this book. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will have a good idea of what it means to be old. It’s good to know.




MAY 2017

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Quilts by Ann Johnston at the Bellevue Arts Museum

Ann Johnston, The Contact: Talus (2016), 87 x 56 in. (Talus slope or deposit, a slope formed by an accumulation of broken rock debris, as at the base of a cliff or other high place, also called scree.)

Until June 11, surface designer Ann Johnston will have 32 works on view in The Contact: Sierra Nevada, Dyed and Stitched at the Bellevue Arts Museum (Bellevue, Washington). This fiber-friendly venue, located across Lake Washington from Seattle, is well worth a visit. The Contact features imagery that visitors of the Sierra Nevada might recognize—bands of colors in the earth, mineral-rich rock layers that have been squeezed and heated over centuries, mountain peaks, lakes, and rock formations. The word “contact” in the exhibition’s title has a double meaning. It refers to a place where geologic units touch each other as well as alluding to the human influence on the landscape. Johnston described The Contact: Talus for my blog readers: “Midday sun casts small, sharp shadows on granite fallen from cliffs above. Some pieces are fresh and look like they broke off yesterday; others are overgrown by lichen or weathered to sand. We arrive to cast shadows and squint in the brightness, diminished by the grandeur.”



Growing Power: Quilts by Jane Sassaman at the National Quilt Museum

Jane Sassaman, Cosmic Star (2007), 61 x 61 in. Photo by Gregory Gantner.

Quilt artist Jane Sassaman has produced some 90 works featuring fabric designed by her, of which 16 are on view in her solo show at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Sassaman says, “This is an unusual show in that it is not about spectacular workmanship, but about making a spectacular quilt with spectacular fabrics. In most cases, the construction is pretty basic and the fabric does all the work. These quilts were specifically made to showcase the fabric. I consider my fabric designs to be ‘art by the yard.’ They are very graphic and have a definite personality and attitude. That’s why I call them ‘personality’ prints. The motifs are similar to those in my appliqued art quilts, but are printed on yardage instead. This is also the purpose of my book, Patchwork Sassaman Style. I have come to see designing commercial fabrics as contributing to the design of my time. We date vintage quilts by their fabrics and we will do the same when our quilts get older, too. Contemporary design reflects our time through color, subject, scale, materials, etc. Just as, for another example, the commercial linen embroidery kits sold during the Bungalow Movement (Arts and Crafts influence) represented a particular lifestyle that revered nature and through stylized design.” Museum curator Judy Schwender remarks, “I am so excited about this exhibit!  One thing that I hope people take away is that you can make a very simply constructed quilt from dramatic fabrics and it becomes something very special.” On view until July 11.



David Begbie’s Solo Exhibition in London

One of David Begbie’s wire mesh sculptures, with shadow, in his London solo show.





Cutting Edge by noted sculptor David Begbie opened on April 26 in Contini Art UK, exploring the nature of beauty in the context of masculinity and femininity as defined by contemporary society. Begbie’s subtle introduction of androgynous elements prompts a reconsideration of gender, and his manipulation of light through wire mesh figural forms creates shadows—sometimes distorted—that question assumptions about spatial relationships and perception. The exhibition closes on May 31.



 Modern Quilt Guild at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Christa Watson, Modern X (2014), an example of the Modern Quilt Guild aesthetic.


Extending through two galleries in the museum, Modern Quilt Guild presents 36 works by as many artists in the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG), founded in 2009 and now with thousands of members worldwide. Bold and graphically focused, these quilts follow and expand upon the tenets of the MQG movement, including solid colors, minimalism, and manipulation of the grid. Amy DiPlacido, exhibition coordinator, tells us, “The show is fresh insight into the direction of contemporary quilting.” Closing on July 16.





London’s Fashion and Textile Museum

Josef Frank, printing block for Spring (1925-1930, one of his early designs).

Josef Frank, Spring printed textile (the printing block motifs are reversed).

Last month I promised to share more information about the Josef Frank exhibition of Swedish Modern textiles in London, and in April I had the opportunity to visit this small but chock-full venue located not too far from the famous Tower of London. Very informative, the show included printed textiles alongside Frank’s actual printing blocks and drawings of the motifs, several pieces of furniture upholstered in his fabrics, and an entire gallery of Frank watercolors, in which textiles figure significantly. My photos here give you a taste of the exhibition and the gallery space.







Josef Frank, drawing for Poison (1943-1945, while living in New York City, depicting some of the plant stimulants found in the western hemisphere).

Josef Frank, Poison printed textile.












Josef Frank, gallery of textiles in London’s Fashion and Textile Museum (April 2017),

Josef Frank, Watercolor (1950s, in Provence, after he stopped designing textiles).

APRIL 2017

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Book of the Month


Korean fiber artist Chunghie Lee finds inspiration for her artwork and fashion designs in bojagi, Korea’s venerated cloth-wrapping tradition. She discusses its history and traditional uses, and gives step-by-step illustrated instructions for the special seaming techniques used in making a variety of bojagi, including several patchwork versions. This revised edition of her book contains new sections on designing for bojagi and on its contemporary art applications. Seven projects are provided, including traditional items, wall hangings, bojagi garments, and a bojagi sculpture. Photo galleries of Lee’s artwork and of bojagi-inspired works by international artists highlight the many possibilities for using this elegant art form. Paperback, 176 pages, more than 250 color illustrations, $38 plus shipping.


Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, Jacuzzi Jazz #1 (2015), 60 x 60 in.

40 Years of Color, Light, and Motion

The Texas Quilt Museum has opened a major solo exhibition of studio art quilts by award-winning artist Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, best known as a master colorist working in abstraction, especially for her illusions of light, depth, and motion. From 1986 until 2013, Fallert-Gentry traveled extensively, lecturing and conducting workshops for symposia, festivals, and textile arts groups throughout the United State, and in eleven foreign countries on five continents. She continues to share her expertise through her publications and website at www.bryerpatch.com. A quilt artist since 1976, she uses her own hand-dyed, painted, and printed cotton fabric for her expressive compositions. Fallert-Gentry’s geometric color studies as well as her more organic, curved-seam abstracts are inspired by visual impressions collected in her travels, her everyday life, and her very creative imagination. The exhibition closes on June 25.





Romare Bearden, Bayou Fever, The Buzzard and the Snake (The Conjur Woman, 1979), collage on fiberboard with attached string and safety pin
9 x 6 in. Copyright: Estate of Romare Bearden. Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York.

Shall We Dance?

Romare Bearden: Bayou Fever and Related Works, features a series of twenty-one vibrant collages from 1979 on view at DC Moore Gallery (New York) created by Bearden for a ballet that invokes African-American traditions and the African presence deeply rooted in the Louisiana bayou near New Orleans, and elsewhere in North America and the Caribbean. Never before shown in New York, these collages represent the main characters and settings of a performance that the artist hoped would be choreographed by Alvin Ailey. Bearden had worked with Ailey, most notably two years earlier when he created a scrim for the ballet Ancestral Voices. He had been interested in dance for some time, as his wife had her own company, the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theater. While the Bayou Fever dance was never performed, the bold imagery of Bearden’s collages speaks to the power of his visual imagination and narrative strength of his original concept. Ritual, magic, and mystery infuse the Bayou Fever series. Much of the storyline involves a confrontation between the Conjur Woman and the Swamp Witch, in a dramatic struggle between good and evil that plays out in a rural cabin deep in the bayou. The dance’s imagery incorporates many of the most prominent motifs and elements found in Bearden’s art, including strong women, elders, musicians, Caribbean masquerade figures, domestic interiors, and rural landscapes, in addition to the powerful Conjur Woman. His costume designs for the characters in the dance often combine photos of African masks with pieces of cloth and textiles. On view until April 29.







Josef Frank, Dixieland, designed between 1943 and 1945 in New York City, first printed in 1974. This is one of Frank’s “map” designs, with Africa to the right.

A Swedish Modern Extravaganza

The Fashion and Textile Museum in London has mounted the first exhibition in the U.K. of textiles designed by Josef Frank, who spent much of his career working in Sweden for Svenskt Tenn. Trish Lorenz, writing for The Guardian, tells us about Frank: “Born in Austria of Jewish heritage, Frank moved to Stockholm with his Swedish wife in 1933 … to escape growing Nazi discrimination. A committed socialist, he had a successful practice in Vienna … where he designed houses, interiors, furniture and fabrics. But when he arrived in Sweden, as an immigrant and a Jew, he couldn’t find work. ‘It was very difficult for him to get established,’ says Svenskt Tenn creative director Thommy Bindefeld. ‘People didn’t want Jewish immigrants taking their work.’ Svenskt Tenn founder Estrid Ericson was the exception: she had created the brand in 1924, with a focus on pewter pieces (‘tenn’ means pewter), but by the early 1930s her interest had shifted to interiors. Her style was functional and utilitarian, popular in Sweden at the time. Ericson had long been an admirer, so she asked Frank if he’d consider designing for her brand. His first pieces were opulent and glamorous, using luxurious materials such as brass and velvet, and introducing pattern. ‘She trusted her eye and her tastes, and didn’t worry too much about what other people thought,’ Bindefeld says. ‘She gave Frank a platform. He would have found life much harder without her, but the opposite is true, too: Svenskt Tenn wouldn’t be here today without him.’” Neither would Marimekko. The exhibition runs through May 7. I plan to visit London this month and share more information about this very interesting museum in my May blog.




Ashley Blalock, Keeping Up Appearances (2017 installation), cotton yarn. Photo by Christine Leong.

Time, Time, Time Is On My Mind

What is happening with time? Am I the only person who feels that the day is becoming sliced into shorter and shorter moments? What is instant everything doing to our psyches? This fleeting topic is being addressed in California Fibers: Time at The Studio Channel Islands Blackboard Gallery in Camarillo, California. Seventeen members of California Fibers (founded in 1970) interpret various aspects of time, including how time lives in our memories, how time can change, and how a lot of time was well spent creating much of the art on view. On view until May 6.





Durian Fruit designs, large batik panels from Turtle Hand.

Malaysian Handcrafted Batiks

The mission of Turtle Hand Batiks is to keep Malaysian heritage crafts alive and thriving, this supporting and enhancing the livelihood of individual artisan producers and their communities. The batiks can be purchased in “art panels” and in yardage, including marbled designs and fractured patterns. This company is relatively new, with their web site still being developed.




MARCH 2017

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Book of the Month


Fifteen years ago I learned about the magical quilts being created by Wen Redmond through photographic processes on fabric, and have followed her career with interest since then. Her new book Digital Fiber Art shares many of the artist’s techniques for texturing and collaging digital imagery, including her signature holographic effect. I asked Redmond to describe how she approaches art making: “I am a process person. My process is fed by my love of being outdoors. I’m passionate about coming up with ideas and working out the kinks. This leads to more discoveries, an evolution.  I make the art and then the art makes me. Part of that process is photography. I can see the most exquisite scenes or combinations of patterns and want to share that beauty. My art represents these moments. They are what lie beneath. I bring them back to share, to remind, to remember. These moments become my source, my well. I hope to bring that energy into my art making, to communicate the positive. Layers peeled back reveal the source, the inspiration, and my mad desire to capture thoughts, dreams, and the beauty of nature.” Digital Fiber Art is issued by C&T Publications ($29.95).




Carolyn Crump, When Doves Cry, 2016, 46 x 42 in., photo by Ash Wilson.

Commemorating His Purple Reign: A Textural Tribute to Prince

The Textile Center in Minneapolis is celebrating the life and music of one of Minnesota’s most famous sons, who died last April at the age of 57. The show’s title, of course, is a pun on Purple Rain, a tribute to Prince’s favorite color and his famous song. This exhibition of quilts by 25 makers, including members of the Women of Color Quilting Network, is juried and curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, a Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellow. She comments, “I loved Prince and his music, and I was honored to be asked to curate an exhibit in his honor.  Each of the pieces in the exhibit is an endearing testament to how much others loved him as well.” This show opens on March 9 and runs through April 29 in the Joan Mondale Gallery, with an opening reception on March 9 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.


Ed Johnetta Miller, Unexpected Colors To Enliven All of Us, 2016, 36 x 40 in., photo by Ayisha Kishili.











Patrick Kelly, Dress, 1986. Purchased in 2016 by the Museum at FIT.

Black Fashion Designers

Organized by Ariele Elia and Elizabeth Way, Black Fashion Designers can be seen until May 16 in New York City in The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). Many black fashion designers have had successful and influential careers. Only a few, however, are widely recognized today. By exploring the work of these designers – both historical and current – this exhibition calls attention to the diverse perspectives they bring, which make fashion more creative and inclusive. Black Fashion Designers ambitiously features 75 ensembles by 60 designers, highlighting a range of individual styles. Black designers face many challenges, including the presumption that they work in a single “black style,” catering to only one demographic. Black designers take inspiration from many sources, but may not necessarily address race in their work. The exhibition is divided into nine themes: Breaking into the Industry, The Rise of the Black Fashion Designer, Eveningwear, Street Influence, Activism, Menswear, Black Models, African Influence, and Experimentation.



Kansai Yamamoto, Jacket, c.1980, printed cotton jersey. Collection of the Denver Art Museum, Neusteter Textile Collection.


Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s

Shock Wave is the inaugural exhibition organized by Florence Müller, the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Curator of Fashion, who joined the museum in 2015. It includes twenty recent acquisitions for the Museum’s collection as well as loans from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and from private lenders. Japanese designers started a fashion revolution in Paris. This exhibition features 70 looks by powerhouse designers Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe, whose impact on fashion still resonates today. Works on view illustrate concepts such as the intersection of tradition and modernity; the influence of pop-culture motifs; molding the body versus hiding the body with oversized shapes; reinventing the traditional Western representation of femininity; collaborations between contemporary artists and fashion designers; and, other diverse ways of challenging the fashion system. On view through May 28, 2017





Creating Batiks in Java

Like many of us, I am concerned about working conditions in textile and fiber factories, as well as the effects of these factories on the environment.  Researching social entrepreneurial and “green” companies, I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Mrowka, the life, studio, and business partner of Debra Lunn.  This pair of artists is well known for unique quilts featuring patterns resulting from potato dextrin and resist processes. Years ago I visited their Ohio studio and was amazed by the variety and intensity of their surface designs. About fifteen years ago, a textile manufacturer asked Mrowka and Lunn to travel to Solo, Java, and see whether they could improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of batik production in the factory there. On the first visit they spent three weeks studying the factory issues and immersing themselves in the Javanese culture. In successive future trips, Mrowka and Lunn focused on standardizing the facilities and improving the working conditions.  After five years, they found a local partner who was able to rebuild the factory to their demands—which included responsible disposal and recycling of all recyclable materials. They even recycle the 4000 pounds of wax used monthly to make the batiks.  They have a government-certified water treatment facility for all wastewater so the water that returns to the river is clean. Mrowka and Lunn also established a local non-profit organization and opened the first free public lending library to further give back to the batik community.

The factory has a very low rate of turnover, and the dye master, a woman, has been with Mrowka and Lunn for the entire fifteen years.  The artists have learned over the years how to communicate precise specifications for dye samples and pattern placement, resulting in very successful production of 15-yard lengths of batik marketed by Robert Kaufman under the name “Artisan Batiks.”  Many of the hand-printed batiks used by quilters around the world originate in the Solo factory. Mrowka and Lunn design all the batik patterns, which are sent to Solo worked into copper tjaps (pronounced “chops”) then stamped onto samples of fabric. These are shipped to Ohio, where the artists can review and adjust the designs if needed. They usually try to spend March through August in Solo, overseeing the batik production during the time of year having abundant sunshine because the batik requires the heat of the sun to set and dry.  Although Mrowka and Lunn have studio space in Solo for their own work, it’s a challenge to balance studio time with their commitments to the 500,000-square-feet factory and its workers.