My husband and I were in New York a couple of weeks ago for a BIG culture blitz that included 4 plays, 1 opera, and 6 museums (and lots of good meals).
Our museum hopping took us from mechanical toys and superheroes at the New York Historical Society ...
|model train refreshment cart (photo: D. Langsam)|
|Picasso's Head of a Woman (photo: D. Langsam)|
...to the Picasso sculpture exhibit at MOMA.
|Picasso's The Bathers (photo: D. Langsam)|
But a major highlight was the Frank Stella Retrospective at the Whitney Museum (now in a magnificent new meatpacking district building at the end of the NYC High Line).
Who can argue with the rare opportunity to see so many of Stella's works, outstandingly displayed, in one incredibly beautiful exhibit space?
|Installation view of Frank Stella: A Retrospective (October 30, 2015—February 7, 2016). © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Ronald AmstutzAdd caption|
Or with a terrific audio tour (accessible online) that's made all the better because it includes a totally unpretentious and unassuming Frank Stella thoughtfully discussing his art?
But what really struck me was how much of Stella's journey involved re-imagining traditional views of painting. Hmmm...sounds an awful lot like the art quilters I know and the ever evolving art quilt genre.
Here are some examples:
--- I thought of Rayna Gilman and her "Cinderella Quilts" when I saw Stella's Delta.
|Frank Stella (b.1936), Delta, 1958. Enamel on canvas, 85 3/8 × 97 in. (216.9 × 246.4 cm). Private collection. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York|
But the black paint didn't entirely obliterate the underlying shapes. And bits of color peeking through lent nuanced tones that intrigued him. Ultimately, the piece inspired him to purposely create his "black painting" series of work.
Rayna has her own way of dealing with "it's not working for me" items (see her blog post for details). In her case, it's ugly or old or unsuccessful blocks and UFO's.
|an "unloved" stepsister block (photo: Rayna Gilman)|
Her solution: get out a rotary cutter. She boldly slices and dices and recombines the pieces with new materials to transform them, Cinderella-style, into something new, fresh, and exciting....
|Finished Cinderella quilt (photo: Rayna Gilman)|
Rayna's working in a different medium - but really, the artistic process is the same...
--- Another example: at some point Stella doesn't want to force his colorful, hard-edged, geometric paintings into the traditional confines of squares and rectangles; his solution...cut the canvas to fit his vision.
|Frank Stella (b.1936), Empress of India, 1965. © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. . © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York|
Sound familiar? For hundreds of years, a "proper" quilt would have been defined as rectangular or square. Not so much these days...quilts come in all manner of shapes. Vicki Pignatelli's dream catcher is just one great example:
|"Dreamcatcher" (photo: Vicki Pignatelli)|
--- And one final example:
In the 1970's and 80's Stella, literally, took his art into new dimensions. No longer content to paint on flat surfaces, he begins to "build" his paintings out into 3 dimensional space by using using felt and wood to project out portions of his canvases...
|Jarmolince III (Frank Stella): front and side view (photo: D. Langsam)|
...and then continues on to produce even more pronounced sculptural "paintings" using all sorts of supportive elements:
|Installation view of Frank Stella: A Retrospective (October 30, 2015—February 7, 2016). © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Ronald Amstutz|
For quilters, this isn't exactly new...if you stitch through 2 layers of fabric and batting, there's going to be some 3 dimensionality. Add some beads or trapunto and the effect is heightened (pun intended).
That being said, there are many quilt artists who are pushing themselves and their quilts even further into the 3rd dimension.
Among the many, I'm thinking about Diane Savona and her extraordinary "strata" series in which objects are sewn between the layers of the quilt sandwich.
|Sewing Strata by Diane Savona (photo: Diane Savona)|
|Naomi S. Adams Diamonds: "The Future of Quilting" Award @ 2010 IQF (photo: Naomi S. Adams)|
|Diane Núñez Cross Section: Quilt Surface Design Symposium Award of Excellence @ 2015 Quilt National (phono: Diane Núñez)|
I'm not enough of a visionary to know where art quilts and quilting will be in ten years. But I left the Whitney knowing this: we're all -- individually or collectively, as painters or sculptors or fiber artists -- pushing some very similar boundaries on our artistic journeys.
DebbieDeborah Langsam Fiber Art
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