Layers of Meaning

Quilting as poetry

Although I have done needlework my entire life, all my formal education has been in language and literature. I spent nearly 25 years teaching English and writing. I learned how to quilt in 1989 and quickly found that following patterns was not for me.  In 1997 I went to QSDS (Quilt Surface Design Symposium) in Columbus, Ohio to learn machine quilting. And I discovered Art Quilts.  By 2001 I had quit teaching and devoted myself to art full time. Now that I work in the visual arts, I see my work as poetry: utilizing visual rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, and repetition to create layers of meaning, not all of which is accessible at first glance. I also often use poetry in the titles of my work.

From the first I knew I should work in series.  For me, color comes first, an emotional and motivating force.  I didn’t like brown, so I decided to learn how to use and like brown. Thus the series Brown Studies was born.  The not very well-hidden joke is how much red is in each piece! Blue Notes seemed to follow inevitably.

Finding and creating patterns is next: the rhythm of things. What happens when seemingly unrelated elements come together?  Patterns are both hidden and revealed.  I am drawn to the dense visual surface.  The tension between fore-and background mirrors one of the essential problems of city life.  Bombarded by images, sound, clutter, chatter and message, how do we distinguish the important, the necessary and the real?  What comes from within and what from without?  What to keep, what to reject?  This constant push/pull, interior and exterior, history and present, family and individual, and the resulting struggle for balance, informs my work.  The quest is to create harmony amidst the chaos. As I am an avid observer of windows, and I live in a very urban environment, apartment house windows appealed as a structural element.  And windows have continued to be an important element in much of my art.

I am also inspired by the changing seasons.  Thus the series Calendar continues to the present day since its beginnings in 2006. Holidays, months, seasons and weather show up as abstracted “windows” using painted backgrounds, raw edge applique of piled bits of fabric, and reverse applique.  

One series leads to another.  A commission lead me back to brown, and a line from a Robert Creeley poem became the inspiration for The Darkness Surrounds Us series.  Here windows morphed into stylized figures.

I continue to love and make art quilts, but recently some of my work, the Torn Things series, has become both more mixed media and sculptural.  I am adding a lot more surface design and also experimenting with found objects. Life in the fiber world is never boring!


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