The New Year brings the Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation (*affiliate link) into the Serendipity Studio library. Here’s an overview from an Antipodean perspective.
Art Quilts Unfolding is BIG and handsomely presented. Check out the artwork on the cover by Tim Harding that dates from 1986, a smart mid-way choice for a publication spanning 50 years:
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.5 x 11 inches
- Weight: 4.4 pounds (2 kilos)
- 400+ full colour images
- 58 interviews and profiles of influential artists, key leaders, important events, and significant collections
- 182 additional international artists’ works
There are many books that include striking images of textile art. Similarly artist profiles and in-depth interviews can be readily found on the internet and elsewhere. This book is different in that it seeks to comprehensively record the emergence of quilts as an art form and the development of the associated art quilt movement over the past 50 years. In other words, it’s all about content and context.
As someone who entered the field in the 21st century, I find it fascinating to read the history. Of course the book highlights pioneers such as Jean Ray Laury, Nancy Crow, Robert Shaw, Penny McMorris and Michael James but there are a multitude of artists, curators and other contributors whose names are new to me.
The book is organised by decade with timelines and thoughtful commentary that I am still reading and digesting. I can’t attest to the accuracy or the completeness of the chronology but I admire and appreciate its ambition. Even if content and emphasis is contested, and so far I haven’t seen any such challenges, it’s important that information is captured now before memories fade and records disappear. I commend Studio Art Quilts Associates** and the authors for taking on this mammoth assignment.
Not surprisingly, the overview and analysis is heavily US-centric. Nevertheless, most chapters profile at least one non-US artist:
- 1960s-1970s – Leslie Gabrielse (Netherlands) and Charlotte Yde (Denmark)
- 1990s – Dorothy Caldwell (Canada)
- 2000s: Pauline Burbidge (UK) and Noriko (Japan) and Chunghie Lee (South Korea)
- 2010s: Eszter Bornemisza (Hungary) and Mirjam Pet-Jacobs (Netherlands)
In addition, international artists are featured throughout the galleries and the timelines include events such as the founding of Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork and Quilt Nihon.
From an Antipodean perspective, the galleries includes recent work by Australian artists Jenny Bowker, Sue Dennis, Ruth de Vos, Dianne Firth, Judy Hooworth and Alison Schwabe. However, there is no mention of such key matters as:
- the role of New Zealand Quilter magazine in supporting and showcasing quilting as an art form over 25 years;
- the establishment of Ozquilt Network first as a newsletter published by Barbara Macey in 1991 and then as an incorporated association in 1998 (although the launch of the OZQN exhibition Art Quilt Australia is shown on the 2000s timeline);
- the launch of The New Quilt (modelled on Quilt National) by QuiltNSW in 1991 which continues today; and
- the artwork of any Antipodean textile artist before the 2000s. (Update: See, for example, works mentioned in Barbara Macey presentation at the National Gallery of Victoria in conjunction with the exhibition Making Australian Quilts 1800 – 1950 in July 2016. Link below)
This is a small quibble – I understand that there are limits on how much detail can be included in a book covering 50 years. However, for me it highlights the desirability for each country/region to capture their own art quilt history beyond one-off catalogues. I wonder what organisations, if any, will embrace this challenge. In the meantime, here are some annotations.
A Shipping Note
Art Quilts Unfolding is a Studio Art Quilts Associates publication and is available in the SAQA Store. Due to its weight, the book is expensive to ship. If you live outside North America, it will be more economical for you to purchase from another source. If you purchase the book on Amazon, consider doing so via Amazon Smile and nominate SAQA as the charitable organisation to which Amazon donates 0.5% of the net purchase price (excluding tax, returns and shipping fees). See links below.
- Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation
- SAQA Store
- Amazon Smile
- Tim Harding
- The New Quilt 2021 – Call for Entries
- Ozquilt Network Membership Form
- Art Quilt Australia 2019- Call for Entries
- Barbara Macey
- Australian Art Quilts 1970 to Now – Barbara Macey
*This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a payment or other benefit if you use my link to make a purchase.
**Studio Art Quilt Associates offers many exhibition, network and mentoring opportunities for its members around the world. If you’ve been thinking about joining SAQA, add the discount code “WKS ” to the application form (and add my name Brenda Gael Smith in the referral field) and you will receive a 10% discount on the membership fee.