Helen McBride Richter, a quilt maker from Georgia, said she has always been interested in art, but there is “something about cloth” that draws her to quilt making.
“There’s something comforting and something familiar about quilts,” Richter said. “Most people, especially young people, are not interested in the traditional (quilts) because it’s kind of old school.”
The Dairy Barn, an art center in Athens, is hosting an art quilting exhibit entitled “Mastery: Sustaining Momentum” from now until November 27. The event is curated by Nancy Crow, an art quilter from Ohio, and features 36 large works from 12 artists. Some smaller works will be presented as well.
Kit Vincent, a quilter from Canada, said the show was invitational and the work had to be large, bold and abstract, which isn’t the particular style for every quilter, Vincent said.
“My work lends itself to large formats so I was thrilled,” Vincent said.
The exhibit not only features the large-scale works of art, but also the “studies” the artists did when preparing to create their pieces, Jane Forrest Redfern, the executive director of the Dairy Barn, said. The studies include paintings, sketches and collages to help the artists plan the actual quilt.
“Kind of like how a painter will draw on the canvas and then they’ll paint it,” Forrest Redfern said. “It’s easier to switch things around like that then to do it on these enormous quilts.”
Vincent said this group of quilters honors the tradition of quilting with cutting and sewing but they make the pieces much larger and more modern-looking.
“You can see quite a bit of work from a large group of people who work in a very similar way and a very cutting edge way,” Vincent said. “(For) anybody that is interested in cloth art, this show is a must-see.”
Judy Kirpich, a quilt maker from Maryland, spent most of her life running a design agency and loved to sew her own clothing. However, she realized she had too many clothes after making outfits for so many years and one day saw an article about Crow in a magazine and became mesmerized with her work. Kirpich said Crow’s quilts “changed (her) life” and her work is the reason why Kirpich started to create artistic quilts.
Kirpich said it can take five to six months to make one piece depending on how complicated and what stitching is like.
“These works are colorful, they are large and they are telling stories, and that’s what art is about,” Forrest Redfern said.
“What’s hard to understand when you look at these pieces is the amount of time and effort that goes into them,” Kirpich said. “I work at quilting seven days a week …I think most people don’t understand the complexity and the degree of skill it really takes.”
Living in Ottawa, Canada, Vincent said she often feels “isolated” because there is no artistic textile work being done like the pieces in the Dairy Barn up there. She said she comes down to Ohio for her own professional development.
“Ohio, Columbus in particular, is a Mecca both for learning textile art and for exhibiting,” Vincent said.
Vincent said she finds that quilters are greeted with a lot of “silence” in the art world because of the style of work. Because the traditional style of quilting is much smaller, Vincent said some people don’t consider quiltwork art.
“I think what you’ll find in this show is that the work has a lot to do with beauty and that’s not terribly on trend today,” Vincent said.
Kirpich said that Crow started a modern movement of art quilters, mostly made up of women, that is growing.
“People don’t like to look at fabric,” Kirpich said. “I think it’s because women work with fabric and so it’s undervalued. So I believe very strongly that one of the reasons quilting and textile art has not gotten the same recognition is because the art world is still a very male dominated world. I think it’s people like Crow who is starting to change that for us.”