Saturday, October 26, 2013

Art Quilts – Part II[1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Preamble
Art Quilts have featured on this blogspot and so for your convenience I have listed below previous posts.
Art Quilts - Part I
Hawaiian Quilts - Part I
Historical Australian Quilts
Hawaiian Quilts - Part II


Introduction
The art of quilting basically involves stitching together two or more layers of fabric to form a decorative design on the top surface, either to create warmth or softness or simply to add interest (see Glossary of Terms and Fabrics).

Whilst quilting had its birthplace steeped in functionality, over the last 200 years or so functionality in certain quarters gave way to artistic expression for its own sake and so quilting became an art form in its own right. Art Quilts now also adorn walls rather than clothe bodies or feature on beds. These Art Quilts satisfy the three necessary conditions that all artworks possess: (a) they must be “engaged”; (b) they are non-functional when displayed in an art space; (c) they are aesthetic. Hence they are now routinely displayed in museums and art galleries.

Although many quilts were made and displayed prior to the 1970s, quilts were recognized as a legitimate art form in 1971 with the opening of the Whitney exhibition - Abstract Design in American Quilts.

The 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition - “Abstract Design in American Quilts”.

The exhibition of pieced quilts from the 19th and early 20th centuries, which was curated by Jonathan Holstein, presented quilts on stark white walls with simple gallery labels. Holstein organized the exhibition so that each piece could "…be seen both as an isolated object and as part of a balanced flow of objects." This type of visual presentation marked a break from the traditional crowded hanging of quilts in county fairs and guild shows that had predominated throughout earlier displays. The exhibition was widely reviewed, including a glowing report by the New York Times art critic, Hilton Kramer. The exhibition was a pivotal turning point in that the cognoscenti acknowledged that quilts were an artistic form in their own right.

Many of the images in this post were procured from a wonderful tome - M. Sielman, Masters: Art Quilts - a must buy!


A Brief History of Quilts
The word “quilt” is believed to be derived from the Latin root culita or culitra which is translated as a sack or cushion filled with wool or hair. Hence a quilt was most probably used at its inception as a blanket covering. Nevertheless, this very practical form of needlework has certainly long been used for clothing as well and for many other purposes throughout the world, particularly in the East.

The British Museum in London houses a carved ivory figure, dating back to 3400 BC, wearing an elegant quilted coat or cloak.

Ivory figure wearing a quilted coat or cloak.
Courtesy of the British Museum, London.

In the Institute of Archaeology in Leningrad (St Petersburg) there is a prized piece of carpet dating from the 1st century BC, which appears to have been quilted with a pattern of spiral and scroll shapes within a geometric border. It is a quilted linen carpet, which was found in a Mongolian cave. Furthermore, in Mazartagh (China) a quilted shoe-upper was excavated that was dated to be made between 400 – 1000 AD.

Felted and quilted wool, string shoe upper that was excavated in China.
Courtesy of the Stein Collection.

As with many needlecrafts, only a few of the earliest examples of quilts have survived in reasonable condition. One of these is a Sicilian quilt, dating from ca. 1400. Originally made as a magnificent pair, the quilt depicts scenes from the legend of Tristram. Part of the quilt is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and an other part is at the Bargello in Florence.

The Tristan Quilt.
The legend of Tristan and Isolde was a favored narrative in the Middle Ages and appears in many forms in literature and the decorative arts. The story represented here on a quilted linen coverlet in 14 scenes, is that of the oppression of Cornwall by King Languis of Ireland and his champion the Morold, and the battle of Sir Tristan with the latter on behalf of his uncle King Mark. Although in subtle shades, the large-scale designs are very clear and the quilt must have looked particularly impressive by candlelight, with lively scenes of battles, ships and castles.

We now know from household inventories that quilting gained popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages. For example, a reference in an inventory of a Marseilles ship captain, Guillaume Ferrenc, lists a courtepointe - a quilted bedcover. Moreover, quilted garments became fashionable and useful – soldiers often wore quilted gambesons (military tunics) with or without an additional covering of chain mail. The outer fabric was usually made from woven cloth, canvas, linen or leather, while fabrics used for furnishings included sarcenet (a silk-like material), velvets and satins. Wool, and later cotton, was used for stuffing.

Depiction of a 13th century Gambeson (a padded defensive jacket worn as armour).

As trading with the East increased, so did the supply of decorative materials. During the 17th century, elaborately quilted garments became popular. Also quilted pillow covers and cupboard linings also made their appearance in the home. Fashionable ladies wore quilted farthingales.

A Spanish quilted fathingale.

By the 18th century skirts were cut in order to reveal a quilted petticoat beneath. Clothiers who supplied ready-quilted fabrics enjoyed a flourishing trade.

An 18th century portrait of Nelly O’Brien in a quilted skirt (painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds).

From Europe, quilting travelled to North America and then moved West with the early settlers. By the 19th century its popularity was such that Quilting Bees – gatherings where several women met regularly to exchange skills and to help each other with the work – were not only busy and constructive forums but were also important social events.

19th century Quilting Bee (Henry Mosler - American genre artist, 1841-1920).

The arrival of the sewing machine in mid-19th century enabled manufacturers to produce quilted items more rapidly and profitably but inevitably the designs became more standardized and so less imaginative than the earlier hand stitched examples.

Civil War Quilts made using a sewing machine.


Master Art Quilts
There are numerous quilters whose artworks are well known to the public at large. In this vignette, only a glimpse will be given of a few such quilters and two of their artworks. For a more detailed survey you should buy reference[1] – it is a marvelous tome which spotlights this wonderful area of art.

Jane Sassaman
Jane Sassaman’s works are inspired by gardens, which provide her with a lyrical metaphor of life in general. From the thorns that protect roses - which cannot flee from harmful intent - to nature’s cycle of birth, destruction, decay and then re-birth.

Title: Garden of Shadows (2004).
Materials and Technique: Cottons, damask; machine appliqued.
Size: 90 x 60 inches (2.3 x 1.5 m).
Photo: G. Gantner.
Courtesy reference[1].

Title: Glorious Greens (1998).
Materials and Technique: Cottons; machine appliqued.
Size: 61 x 58 inches ( 1.6 x 1.5 m).
Photo: G. Gantner.
Courtesy reference[1].

Michael A. Cummings
Michael Cummings’ works are inspired by combining elements from his African-American heritage,Yoruba mythology and from his formal art training. Subjects of his work vary from historical heroes, jazz musicians and the Yoruba water goddess.

Title: Absolut Vodka Quilt (1997).
Materials and Technique: Cotton, printed mud cloth, buttons; machine appliqued.
Size: 60 x 48 inches (1.5 x 1.2 m).
Photo: G. Gantner.
Courtesy reference[1].

Title: African Jazz #10 (1990).
Materials and Technique: Cotton blends; machine appliqued.
Size: 108 x 72 inches (2.7 x 1.8 m).
Photo: S. Wells.
Courtesy reference[1].

Ita Ziv
Ita Ziv’s works are inspired by the natural world and the political atmosphere that surrounds her. She was born in Poland but moved to Israel when she was three. Although her works are primarily composed of simple shapes and lines, her works are nevertheless animated and lively due to her application of color and movement.

Title: Inner Struggle (2006).
Materials and Technique: Cotton, metallic threads; hand dyed, fused, free-motion machine embroidered.
Size: 36 x 48 inches (91.4 x 121.9 cm).
Photo: R. Erde.
Courtesy reference[1].

Title: Landscapes (2005).
Materials and Technique: Nylon organza, metallic threads; collage, quilted, embroidered.
Size: 16 x 25.5 inches (40.6 x 64.8 cm).
Photo: R. Erde.
Courtesy reference[1].

Cher Cartwright
Cher Cartwright’s works are inspired by combining elements of curves and circles that interplay with color to yield a non-linear fluidity to her works. Her simple geometric shapes yield different dynamic swirls that are so associated with astronomical and astrological contexts.

Title: Not Just Another Anita Bryant Day (2001).
Materials and Technique: Cotton fabric, rayon thread; hand dyed; machine pieced and quilted.
Size: 44 x 34 inches (111.8 x 86.4 cm).
Photo: K. Mayer.
Courtesy reference[1].

Recurrent (2003).
Materials and Technique: Cotton fabric, rayon thread; hand dyed; machine pieced and quilted.
Size: 37 x 21 inches (94 x 53.3 cm).
Photo: K. Mayer.
Courtesy reference[1].

Noriko Endo
Noriko Endo’s works are inspired confetti naturescapes that capture the play of light and color through the leaves and foliage of woods. Whilst some have likened it to pointillism on cloth, the scenic passages she allows your eye to meander through her woods encapsulates a spiritualism that is only beholden to the kingdom of plants.

Title: Autumn (2005).
Materials and Technique: Cotton, polyester, tulle; hand dyed; machine quilted, appliqued and embellished.
Size: 51 x 49 inches (1.3 x 1.2 m).
Photo: M. Nomura.
Courtesy reference[1].

Autumn Walk (2002).
Materials and Technique: Cotton, tulle; machine quilted and appliqued.
Size: 48 x 90 inches (1.2 x 2.3 m).
Photo: N. Endo.
Courtesy reference[1].

Deidre Scherer
Deidre Scherer's works are inspired by people in varying stages of aging and dying, either alone or surrounded by family and friends. The context in itself maybe confronting for some, but what she has captured is that fleeting passage between life and the afterlife which she reveals to the viewer. There is a lot of grace mixed with the uncertainty of a future unknown in her works.

Title: Red Hat (2003).
Materials and Technique: Fabric, thread; cut, pieced, layered, machine sewn.
Size: 12 x 10 inches (30.5 x 25.4 cm).
Photo: J. Baird.
Courtesy reference[1].

Listen From Last Year (1990).
Materials and Technique: Fabric, thread; cut, pieced, layered, machine sewn.
Size: 25 x 21 inches (63.5 x 53.3 cm).
Photo: J. Baird.
Courtesy reference[1].

Carolyn L. Mazloomi
Carolyn Mazloomi’s works are inspired by the celebration of jazz, blues and moreover, the genre of women. Many of her narrative quilts remind women of the importance of child bearing and child rearing. The spiritual and physical warmth of her quilts find resonance in the metaphorical links between women and their biological circumstance.

Title: The Peacekeeper’s Gift (2006).
Materials and Technique: Cotton, silk, beads, rayon; machine appliqued and quilted.
Size: 72 x 54 inches (1.8 x 1.4 m).
Photo: R. Giesler.
Courtesy reference[1].

Endless Journey (2000).
Materials and Technique: Silk, African waxed cotton, beads; hand dyed, appliqued and machine quilted.
Size: 72 x 57 inches (1.8 x 1.4 m).
Photo: R. Giesler.
Courtesy reference[1].

Hollis Chatelain
Hollis Chatelain’s works are inspired by people she paints. Based on photography, Chatelain’s fiber reactive paintings of her friends from around the world are heavily machine quilted in order to add depth, shading and detail to her work. Her subject matter ranges from basic human rights such as access to clean drinking water, education and freedom from exploitation etc.

Title: Burkinabe Mother (2003).
Materials and Technique: Mali cotton fabric, polyester batting; machine quilted.
Size: 42 x 30 inches (106.7 x 76.2 cm).
Photo: L. Ruck.
Courtesy reference[1].

Listen From Last Year (1990).
Materials and Technique: Fabric, thread; cut, pieced, layered, machine sewn.
Size: 25 x 21 inches (63.5 x 53.3 cm).
Photo: L. Ruck.
Courtesy reference[1].


Reference:
[1] M. Sielman, Masters: Art Quilts, Lark Books, New York (2008).

1 comment:

yasmin sabur said...

It takes a great deal of work to be inclusive. I deeply appreciate your effort. Would that the reality of the fiber world mirrored the multi-ethnic international point of view you show in this post. Thanks.