Friday, November 15, 2013


alt_quilts, a contemporary art quilt exhibit, is underway at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes and Stephen Sollins draw inspiration from traditional quilts for their more modern approach to the quilt as an art form. Interestingly, each artist uses collected materials in the construction of their art.

Sabrina Gschwandtner creates her quilt inspired works from what on close inspection turns out to be 16mm film. She is mindful of the content of the film she uses in her pieces, some of which is deaccessioned film she aquired from the Fashion Institute of Technology.  These films are from the 1950’s – 1980’s and are primarily documentaries of women engaging in activities pertaining to the textile arts, such as sewing and weaving. Gschwandtner uses her Bernina to stitch together her film, then cuts her “fabric” and assembles her “blocks”. The pieces are displayed on framed light boxes, which make them vibrant and immediately attract the viewer.

Film Board of Canada, 2010

Film Board of Canada, detail

Much like the original quilt makers, Luke Haynes creates his quilts from fabric scraps. He subscribes to the notion of “constructing usable objects from unusable cloth”.  Who doesn’t love that notion? He acquires fabric from Goodwill thrift shops, then deconstructs the clothing and incorporates the pieces into his art using a long arm machine to do so.

It’s no surprise that Hayes is inspired by tumbling blocks, as his works are three-dimensional and filled with illusion. He uses a technique known as anamorphic perspective; a technique, where by arraigning shapes, color, and value creates depth depending on the angle the piece is being viewed from.

Check out this quilt. From the angle in this first photo, the image reveals a flat quilt on a "bed".
(The American Context #4) Benjamin Franklin

But from this angle it appears as if the figure, Benjamin Franklin is sitting upon the bed, very cool…
(The American Context #4) Benjamin Franklin

Stephen Sollins works up his art quilts from scraps of paper. He is intrigued by the patterns found on the envelopes, papers and Tyvek that protect ones daily mail. Sollins has developed his own system of piecing. He creates seam allowances made of tabs then glues his shapes together.

Fascinated by the near perfect symmetry of Mary Smith's quilt (shown below), from the Civil War era, Sollins used it as inspiration for his paper version of a log cabin. Sollins titled his quilt “Return to Sender” which may be a reference to the original quilt, and is associated with a tragic story. The original quilt was part of Mary Jane Smith’s trousseau. Miss Smith, lived in Queens, NY and was engaged to a soldier she met at Fort Totten. Her betrothed returned from the Civil War only to succumb to pneumonia the day of the wedding. Mary Jane never married and her quilt was never used.
Log Cabin Quilt, Barn Raising Variation
Mary Jane Smith 1833 - 1869
Mary Morrell Smith 1798 - 1869
Untitled (Return to Sender After Mary Jane Smith 1865)
Untitled (Return to Sender After Mary Jane Smith, 1865), Detail

The show is curated by quilt specialist Stacy Hollander and will be on display through January 5, 2014. What’s next for the American Folk Art Museum? Folk Couture, Fashion and Folk Art. “An exhibition of original couture by thirteen renowned fashion designers. Inspired by works of art from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum". Sounds interesting, I’ll keep you posted.

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