Monday, August 12, 2013

Quilts in Lowell

Last Monday I took a ride up to the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Lowell to help hang the SAQA show 'Three Cohesive Pieces'. This is a show full of firsts for me. Brandishing my white gloves, I dove into setting up a show with Valarie Poitier. I have never done this before so it was a learning experience for me in so many ways. Now I understand completely the 'why' of creating a proper sleeve for your quilt to hang. As you can see above the poles for this show were substantial in girth. Those few quilts with sleeves under 4" had to be pinned instead of hung. Also those quilts like mine, who had their sleeves pulled tight and sewn that way, bulged around the poles. Now I know why you should do a 1/2" basted fold on your sleeve. When you pull out the basting after the sleeve is sewn to the quilt, it allows room for the pole without pushing into the front of the quilt. This way the quilt hangs flat.

Valarie and Michele David did a lot of work making sure the quilts were kept in bags labeled with photocopies of each quilt so that nothing was lost. There was a system to keeping the bags with the pieces (you can see some of them above) so that pick up at the end of the show would be quick and accurate. Then of course, there was the aesthetic of the show. We set most everything on poles and then went about trying to balance color, shape, value and size around the room. One thing we had to contend with was insufficient lighting. There were dark corners of the room where only light, bright quilts did well. Sometimes you just can't fix things like lighting, so Val expertly moved some of the poles to the center of the room to maximize light.

By one in the afternoon we had a whole crew of helpers. Here you can see some of the quilts hanging in their temporary spots while Janice Jones and Valarie take a break while waiting for more chain to be brought up from the first floor. 

While we were hard at work setting the SAQA show on the second floor, Celeste Janey and others were busy down on the main floor with the Images quilts. Celeste spent her day numbering all the many quilts so that they could be hung on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

When all the quilts were hung upstairs, those who were still helping out went down to the Images show to start hanging the "big" quilts. Julia Altshuler and her husband Jim are on the ladders to the left hanging one of the largest (108" x 108") quilts in the show. All in all I learned a lot about how quilt shows are hung and it was really fun to meet so many of my colleagues for the first time.

Lowell is about an hour and a half drive for me so even though I wanted to be there all three days I just couldn't handle all that driving. Saturday I was there all day long. I started my day at the Auditorium at 11:00am  with my cousins who came to view the show. Out front was the quilt covered Chevy catching everyone's eye.

Here I am with my family of quilt lovers. Left to right, are Donna Valeri Peters (daughter of Judi), Judi Membrino Madulka, Julia Membrino Hutton and myself. (Nancy Membrino Turbitt - seeing the family connection?) My cousin Diane Membrino Wespiser, also an avid art quilter, had gone up on Friday with a friend. We missed her company. 

We went right on up to the second floor to the SAQA show 'Three Cohesive Pieces'. Inside the door were my three shown here on the bottom.

Here I am later in the day with Janice Jones in front of her vibrant African inspired pieces. 
Another shot from the end of the day showing a greater expanse of the show. In the distance is Michele Leavitt, also a RI quilter, in front of her three pieces talking to Janice's husband, Bob. The chairs were set up so that the SAQA MA/RI group could have their regional meeting. As I was entertaining family I missed a wonderful talk given by Valarie Poitier about what makes artwork cohesive.

Right is one of my favorites from the show.

"The Lone Egret"
Brenda J. Jones, 
Hyde Park, MA
30" x 36"
Machine pieced, appliqued, and quilted

Brenda says of her piece, "The egret is the third Sanibel Island bird that I transformed from photograph to quilt. The bright white feathers stand out from the lush green Florida foliage."

The stitching on her pieces was wonderful as was her attention to detail.

To the right are two sets of three hung one above the other because of their similarity in color. Above are three from Sharon G. Monahan of Walpole, MA. Sharon set all of her colors on top of a black background which formed a linear outline of black around each shape. They were stretched on wooden stretchers. Below are three from Diane Wright of Guilford, CT who chose MA/RI as her alternate SAQA state. Her pieces were machine pieced and quilted with some hand quilting, rick rack, beads and buttons applied. In both of these groupings it is rather easy to see the voice of each artist, creating an easy three cohesive pieces.

We all moved downstairs to the Images show where there were many types of quilts hanging. This was a judged show and there were a lot of ribbons. This is a piece by Barbara Barrick McKie from Lyme, CT called "My Buddy and Me". Barbara took this photograph in the Galapagos Islands and transformed it with machine applique, thread painting and trapunto quilting. She had another piece in the show of a lion which was equally enthralling. Her thread painting was amazing and for this piece she was given the Judges Choice ribbon.

Another ribbon winner was the piece to the right. Called "Gilding the Arbor", Bethanne Nemesh of Allentown, PA used free-motion quilting to pop out her hand drawn designs made with wash-out pens. If you enlarge this detail image you will see a grasshopper, a butterfly and a dragonfly in the blue area. 

The next piece to the right is called "Persephone Rising" by Marilyn Belford of Chenengo Forks, NY. We all know how much quilts can look like paintings. This piece looks like a painting done by an old master, however, she used no paints at all in her piece. Hundreds of fused raw-edge appliques were machine appliqued and thread painted. This piece was a monumental 67" x 82".

After having a delightful lunch with my cousins we parted ways and I continued on to the other shows in the city as they headed home. To the left is the Whistler Museum, home of the famous painting of Whistler's Mother (named "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1" and not the popularly known Whistler's Mother), which I was very surprised to see was an extremely large painting. I can now say that I have seen this one by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, born in Lowell, adding to my live viewings of famous paintings by artists like Renoir, Degas, Gaugin and even "The Pieta" and "The Sistine Chapel" by Michelangelo. I have seen some really amazing pieces of classical art in my life. I would like to interject that I believe that what is happening in the world of fiber art now is equally exciting and in time will be required viewing for those who wish to have a strong background in art appreciation. With that said, I moved from the museum into the gallery across from the courtyard where the quilts were hanging. 

This show was called "Art Quilts at the Whistler 2013: What's My Line?" As I stepped into the gallery. the piece directly in front of me was a show stopper. To the right, "Genesis Colony" by Betty Busby won the Whistler Award. This show was judged by Bobbie Sullivan and Nancy Crasco (past winners of the Whistler Award) and can be seen now through September 14.

This show explores the idea of using a line both literally and figuratively. To the right is another piece by Barbara McKie of Lyme, CT called "Iguana Headache". Again, her use of thread painting is amazing, bringing this piece alive.

Here is a wider view of the gallery with a piece by Ann Brauer of Shelburn Falls, MA in the corner. In the second room was a small show of quilt artists interpreting the same etching  of a street scene in France. Janice Jones who had a piece in the SAQA show, also had a piece in this smaller show and one in the Brush Gallery as well.

I wish I had taken more pictures at the Brush Gallery. It was packed with people and had a full spread of finger foods and drinks out. The Brush is a smallish gallery which also is the home of many studios full of artists from the area. As I acclimated myself after stepping in I heard my name called. Lisa Chipetine who I met through The Visioning Project, a support project through SAQA that helps artists set and reach goals, was in attendance as she had a piece in the show. This was a smallish show but it was packed with wonderfully creative pieces. Titled "Art Quilts Lowell: Tangled Up In Blue" each piece had a story to tell about the color blue. The piece to the left is called, "She Has the Whole World......." and is made by Carolyn Carson, of PA. It is made of cotton batik, wool handspun by the artist and paint and is 64" x 42.5". Not only did I love the artistry but I was taken in by the drama of the piece.

Scurrying back to the auditorium by 3:30, I only had a short time to do some shopping at the many vendors who were set up around the Images Show. I played with a longarm from Innova Quilting Systems, which would be on my list of things to buy if I were to win the lottery. It's priced a bit out of my range but it sewed beautifully with it's stitch regulator. No matter how fast or slow I moved the needle, it kept and even stitch. I loved it! I found an absolutely beautiful hand-dyed fabric made by Gabriele Bullard of Seagrove Beach, FL. Her business is called Fabrilish. She is still working on her website, but she promised she will have fabrics for sale on it soon. As I was passing by her booth I saw a piece that was so complex and striking that I was sucked right in and bought it on the spot for Queen Bee's skin. It is so much more intense than the piece I had planned to use and I am so glad I found it.

Upstairs, I helped take the show down. Shows come down much quicker than they go up. I collected my three pieces and headed the 75 miles home for the last time this summer. My first show was officially over. I am so grateful to have been chosen for this show. It was a truly perfect way to start showing my work at exhibitions. Small enough for me to get an education in exhibiting, but large enough to be seen by many people. I am thankful to SAQA for it's commitment to supporting art quilters and am especially thankful to those who put this show together, our regional co-reps, Valarie Poitier and Michele David.

Today I sent off my contribution to the exhibition, "What's for Dinner?" at IQF in Texas. While it was the first of my pieces to be accepted to a show it is now the second show I have been fortunate enough to be in. Fully enthused by all I have seen this weekend, I am burning rubber on Queen Bee and that will be the next post I make. Soon I hope to find just the perfect exhibition to enter her into.