This Guest post is courtesy of fiber artist and teacher, Pat Pauly.
Hold the catalog of Quilt National ‘17 in your hand and you’ll feel the energy. It’s got color and lots of it, but there is more. Offering a substantial background on Quilt National, an exhibition that steered an acceptance of non-traditional forms of fiber work and paved the road for the art quilt movement, the catalog features extras that flesh out why this exhibition is the long-standing benchmark for acceptance in the art quilt world, with the history of the Dairy Barn, juror’s statements, and a catalog timeline. This year they are offering a bundle package that includes the artist interview DVD. -Well worth it to see the artists talk about the works in the catalog! If people want to stick to just the catalog, it is still being offered on its own. This is definitely a book that fiber artists will want to have on their shelf!
I was fortunate to be juried in to the 20th Biennial Quilt National, to attend the opening, and stand among the artists – both veterans and virgins – and experienced the electricity first hand. Catalog is one thing, seeing the show in person is another.
Where other quilt art shows built slowly, first with a mixture of traditional and art, Quilt National, from its inception in 1979, called for pushing this textile art to an extreme form. QN ’17 continues the momentum.
That Sue Benner’s quilt “Cuffs” is composed of shirt cuffs joined with threads in a grid reminiscent of a traditional split rail fence pattern, here a nod to quilt’s heritage, is a piece clearly nonfunctional and radicalized. As is Diane Nunez’s work “Cinque Terre,” three dimensions as its main focus, and it pops off the wall as sculpture. Works bracketing the spectrum of construction techniques, from piecing, to whole cloth, to raw edge, and to surface design wonders, are hung and suspended in the Dairy Barn Art Center in Athens, Ohio. Take Dinah Sargeant’s work “Spines Return” for mastery in surface design, where she pulls figures out of the cloth, accented with raw edge applique. Scale, difficult to show print, is evident in the exhibition, where large counts. Award winner Denise Robert’s work “Finding Connections #8” offers a deceptively simple figure-8 shape topping seven feet. You need at least 30 feet distance to see Judith Martin’s “Soft Summer Gone,” (100” x 100”) to appreciate its composition. Get nose to nose and you can see the intricate handwork Martin has spread.
The first quilt I ever made was juried in Quilt National ’83, so I’ve known from the beginning as a fiber artist that there was a place for my work, and an acceptance in a world that treated art quilts with respect. You can look up the statistics in the 20th biennial catalog, but suffice to say nearly 10,000 artists have submitted to the 20 exhibitions held. Less than 800 artists in the 40 year span have shown work. But you can believe that those 10,000 artists (and they are just the group that submitted) are a resounding group of admirers to the art quilt, as well as a massive block of people working in fiber art. I say, just keep going.
Pat Pauly is a fiber artist who teaches and lectures (among other things), throughout North America. You can follow her blog piecesandresistance.blogspot.com where she posts every day a photo and very few words. Her web site is patpauly.com. She got her copy of the QN ’17 catalog at the show, but you can
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