Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Quilts in an Art Museum means they are ART

Made by Adrien Rothschild a better shot is seen here at BMA site
The surprise on my birthday visit to BMA was an art quilt exhibit. The quilts were made in different eras, and there were only four of them but they are really interesting. (Click on any image to see details)

This installation was enormous, painted wood with painted quilts inserted.
 Being a painter, I was intrigued with this painted with dyes. Subtle shading in neutral colors it was peaceful but set into the wood structure so boldly painted was dynamic. Look at a close up
 Seed stitch for filler. Note the delicate shadows, and the deep shadows we're often reluctant to add.
Michael James
Michael James gained notoriety working with fabric in the '70's when fabric wasn't considered an art medium. He used repetition and color to design interlocking images. 
I've seen his work for years in books but was excited to see one in person. Note his not quite matching line to the left proving a very successful piece of art isn't held to the same standards a quilt show judge would use. 

It is very sparsely quilted as well. How different our current standards are. I don't always like to see a quilt so heavily quilted it buckles from all the extra threads. 

Like any art form, we get used to certain looks and cling to them. I just wanted to point out for the newer quilters, people did not always consider such close quilting necessary to design. Art forms change, and people view them differently over time. 

I am glad to see Art Museums acceptance of fiber art as a valid art form as this hasn't always been the case. 
This quilt is large and hung on point,  requiring a different kind of support for display. It looks like a wooden frame was covered in batting and fabric, and the quilt was stitched to it. 

Last winter I visited the Walter's art museum in Baltimore and commented on a patron's lovely scarf. We began to share, and he asked, "since you are an art quilter, do you know Michael James?" 

I sputtered and said I knew of the famous James. Turns out the gentleman is a family friend and shared a few anecdotes with me.One degree of separation lol. 
gratuitous selfie in the reflection

 Click on that image to see the extreme detail Pamela Studstill used in designing this quilt on graph paper. It would suck all the fun out of the process for me, to design to this degree.

 I would feel done with the whole thing as most of the fun is seeing how a quilt develops as I add blocks. 

That's just me though, how about you? 
 What do you think?



  1. I love this installation... do you think it would look great on a wall too? without furnitures and everything, just a giant poster with rocks or something like that and some quilt-eyecatchers...

    1. oh definitely yes. I would like to attempt it.
      Imagine three banners on silk.

  2. what a strange exhibit -- it might have been done in 1980!! what was the theme or title?

    1. thanks for the link. I had never seen the Elizabeth Scott piece before, nor even heard of her, and I like that quilt a lot! I was a little off in saying the quilts were so 1980...
      sent by email

  3. Thanks for sharing. I agree with you about the Michael James piece. STUNNING! In Houston it would NOT please the judges. Was that piece framed/stretched from behind? I think we need to have more ART QUILT shows! ! ! ! The wood with the quilted inserts is STUNNING + + + UNIQUE! When I see an exhibit like this I want to explore more myself. However, then what do I do with it?

  4. I especially love, love that painted one - did it look like it was quilted first then added the seed stitches? just wonderful - great shadow. It's kind of nice to have just the 4 quilts. When I go to these big quilt shows, it gets overwhelming and with just 4 you can take the time to really look and appreciate them.
    I wonder if Micheal James is still quilting? or is he even still alive? I had one of his books back in the 70's / 80's - very inspirational

  5. I'd like to take issue with your comment, Lee Anna, that we (art quilters) "did not always consider such close quilting as necessary to design". It's NEVER been essential to design. It is a current fashion, certainly, but intensive quilting, and the the popular thread painting style currently 'in fashion' are not always appropriate to a design. Sadly many art quilters see it and dying/printing your own fabrics as requirements to be met before you can consider yourself an 'art quilter'

  6. Oh M. James was one of the first quilters whose books I got and read avidly..loved his stuff...still do really. I loaned them out to a (then!) friend and never got them back....I like that they are "arty" but still manage to look like quilts....hugs, Jualierose

  7. I love the Michael James quilt.

    All of these are great. Thanks for sharing. What a great birthday treat!

  8. Amazing pieces! What a terrific outing you had. ღ

  9. I couldn't agree with you more on every point. I'm pleased to see the "flaws" in Michael James' work. That was never pointed out in the books and articles that were published back in the day when his name and his work was everywhere. I didn't see it if it was in any case. ;-) It will be interesting to see how long this trend of quilting a quilt within an inch of it's life hangs on!

  10. That quilt by Adrian Rothchild is one of my all-time favorites. I agree with you about designing. When I first took up quilting, I tried to design everything before I began to sew. I quickly figured out that the project had no more allure when I did that. 🙂


  11. That first quilt is just jaw dropping! What a fantastic birthday surprise... I'm sure it was amazing. It's so nice to see quilts being accepted as an art form.

  12. Thanks for sharing, LeeAnna! What a great exhibit! I've never seen a Michael James quilt in person, but I would love to.

  13. Thanks for sharing these! I love the James one, and the second one with the wood panels is fascinating with the contrast of very naturalistic and very.... not? I fail at art analysis!

    RE designing: It depends. My inner control freak likes to have a reasonable idea of where I'm going with something, but I am not averse to changing things in a design as I go along either. Sometimes I've had fairly random projects turn out really well, but often they end up a bit of a mess (to my eyes), so I like to have a bit of a grip on what's going to go where.

  14. Some work that is new to me here; thanks for sharing. I agree totally - if my design was that detailed and complete, the quilt would never get made.

  15. Whoa, I missed several posts. Felt like I have sped through the last few days. How about you, speed bump days? When you are the speed bump?

    thanks for the tour of the museum. i too, love Klee. And i wonder what that statue was thinking?

  16. Thanks for the tour! That was very interesting! Love seeing artists from other eras. Especially when they are ahead of their time.

  17. Thanks for the show! For me, art is totally subjective, and time changes perspective.

  18. I actually met Michael James at a quilt show back in the mid 70's. He was at a workshop my grandmother was giving, and she convinced him to show us his quilts - I ended up helping to hold them for all to ooh and aah over. He was just the nicest person. 8)
    It was the first time I'd gotten to really see art quilts close up, rather than the traditionals I'd grown up with. A real eye-opener.
    Speaking of the 70's - I've watched the pendulum swing on the quilting-closeness. Pre-70's we used cotton batting that had to be quilted very closely to keep it from wadding itself up. Then along came the polyester batts that could be quilted quite far apart, and that changed everything: minimal quilting became the thing. Now we have the new and improved cotton batting that holds together better and the quilting is getting denser again. Now it's the polyester batting that's becoming uncommon. I can't wait to see what happens next!