A milestone in perception occurred in 1971, when the Whitney Museum of American Art displayed quilts in a museum setting: Abstract Design in American Quilts bestowed institutional recognition of the artistry inherent in these humble textiles. In subsequent decades, quilting’s popularity exploded. Some who took up quilting created pieced quilts that honored traditional patterns, symmetry, and repetition. But others saw the potential for pushing beyond patchwork, giving birth to the art quilt. Today, adherents from both art and quilting backgrounds incorporate storytelling, digital images, nonfabric materials, asymmetry, and three dimensions—in short, anything goes in the world of art quilting, as long as the result is stitched, layered, and not primarily functional.
As a writer covering textiles, art, and craft, Linzee Kull McCray wondered just how deeply fiber artists were influenced by their surroundings. Focusing on midwestern art quilters in particular, she put out a call for entries and nearly 100 artists responded; they were free to define those aspects of midwesterness that most affected their work. The artists selected for inclusion in this book embrace the Midwest’s climate, land, people, and culture, and if they don’t always embrace it wholeheartedly, then they use their art to react to it. The proof can be seen in the varied, powerful quilts in this energizing book.
Enlivened by the Midwest’s landscapes and seasons, Sally Bowker paints her fabrics with acrylics, creating marks and meaning with layers of hand stitching and appliqued bits of fabric. Shin-hee Chin uses sketchlike stitching for its ability to penetrate fabric and create depth; living in the Midwest helps her stay balanced between eastern philosophy and western culture. The metals and mesh that Diane Núñez incorporates into her quilts connect to her days as a jeweler as well as to the topography of her home state of Michigan. Pat Owoc prepares papers with disperse dyes, then selects from as many as 150 to create her fabrics; her art-quilt series honors midwestern pioneers. Martha Warshaw photographs old fabrics, tweaks the images in Photoshop, and prints the results for her pieces, which connect her to the legacy of quilting in past generations.
The Midwest has always had strong textile communities. Now the twenty artists featured in this beautifully illustrated book have created a new community of original art forms that bring new life to an old tradition.
Marilyn Ampe, St. Paul, Minnesota
Gail Baar, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Sally Bowker, Cornucopia, Wisconsin
Peggy Brown, Nashville, Indiana
Shelly Burge, Lincoln, Nebraska
Shin-hee Chin, McPherson, Kansas
Sandra Palmer Ciolino, Cincinnati, Ohio
Jacquelyn Gering, Chicago, Illinois
Kate Gorman, Westerville, Ohio
Donna Katz, Chicago, Illinois
Beth Markel, Rochester Hills, Michigan
Diane Núñez, Southfield, Michigan
Pat Owoc, St. Louis, Missouri
BJ Parady, Batavia, Illinois
Bonnie Peterson, Houghton, Michigan
Luanne Rimel, St. Louis, Missouri
Barbara Schneider, Woodstock, Illinois
Susan Shie, Wooster, Ohio
Martha Warshaw, Cincinnati, Ohio
Erick Wolfmeyer, Iowa City, Iowa
“Art Quilts of the Midwest explores the essence of present-day and historic midwestern life in art quilts. Whether you hail from California, Quebec, or Australia, Linzee McCray’s thoughtful writing reveals how regional landscapes, culture, and history influence artists everywhere.”—Bill Kerr, Modern Quilt Studio
“Linzee McCray has the knack of getting to the heart of artists’ work—piecing together their motivations and inspirations into stories as unique and colorful as the quilts themselves.”—Janine Vangool, editor, UPPERCASE