Fabric artists go on location for subject matter

An abandoned sugar cane factory in Kauai, Hawaii, inspired this quilt titled “Sugar” by Susan Strickland of Grand Junction. It is one of 12 pieces in a special “Anything Goes” exhibit at Denver National Quilt Festival VI.

The theme says “Anything Goes,” but the top three juror’s picks in an exhibit by members of the Art Quilt Association have a common thread: geography.

The fabric artists chose Alaska and Hawaii, the two noncontiguous members of these United States, and the country of China as their subjects. Their creations are among 12 pieces in a special exhibit at the Denver National Quilt Festival VI.

Today is the final day of the festival at the Denver Merchandise Mart, where the Art Quilt Association of the Western Slope, better known as AQuA, exhibits annually.

Quilts by Susan Strickland, Nancy Dobson and Kathleen Malvern, all of Grand Junction, were favorites of the juror, Lynn Cornelius.

Cornelius is a professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She received a master’s degree in fine art/fibers from Colorado State University.

Her favorite quilt was Strickland’s, titled “Sugar” and measuring 16 inches by 43 inches. The pictorial art quilt features an abandoned sugar cane factory in Kauai, Hawaii. Strickland was enamored with “its beautiful rust and patina” and knew the factory had to be re-created in fabric.

The majority of her materials are hand-dyed, painted or stamped fabrics, with free-motion quilting as the finishing method.

“The abandoned factory is as much a part of the history of Hawaii as is the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” Strickland says.

Juror Cornelius admires the construction of “Sugar” — from its horizontal composition to its complexity and layering of surface design. “Nothing feels arbitrary. This piece feels carefully planned, yet it also has a quality of effortlessness and energy,” she says.

Hawaii and Alaska gained their statehood in the same year, 1959, as the 50th and 49th states, respectively.

Dobson’s quilt, “Fluvial Force,” reflects her affinity for the largest state of all, where she lives in Eagle River from June through December. She calls Grand Junction home the remainder of the year. (Dobson often is referred to as Nancy of the North.)

Her quilt measures 35.5 inches by 14.25 inches and includes hand-dyed and rusted cotton and photo- manipulated printed cotton. She machine pieced and quilted it, then embellished her work with hand stitches.

“I continue to explore shapes and textures from aerial photographs I have taken of rivers and glaciers in Alaska,” Dobson says. “The meandering braids and eroded banks remind me of how powerful the force of water is.”

The textile art appears to depict a vast space, Cornelius notes in her critique. “The composition alludes to the microcosms and macrocosms in nature,” she says.

For art quilter Malvern, a recent trip to China influenced her design titled “China Rising,” measuring 33.75 inches by 25.75 inches.

“I was struck by the magnificence of the ancient Terracotta Army located near China’s (former) capital Xi’an,” Malvern says.

Her goal was to combine the country’s ancient history with the rise of modern-day China.

Cornelius compliments Malvern’s use of color, patterns, metallic elements and photo- transferred imagery, all of which create “a sense of wonder and mystery.”

Of 17 quilts submitted, Cornelius chose 12 for the exhibit, noting that she found in them “a high quality of both craft and design.”

AQuA members selected the “Anything Goes” theme to free themselves from restrictions and create work based on each artist’s stylistic preferences.

Specializing in quilts as art rather than bed coverings, they explore textile manipulation and the diversity of mixed media as an art form.

Based in Grand Junction, the association has 76 members from all over the state of Colorado, several other states and one member from Scotland.

Given the diversity of talent among AQuA, it’s easy to see why having the creative freedom to do almost anything ... goes.

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Email Sherida.Warner@ gjsentinel.com.


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