Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Than Just Blocks of Color, An Exhibit On Quilts at Marshall, Texas's Michelson Art Museum.

From a distance, this gallery could be full of abstract paintings and art collages. But edge closer, and you'll discover that the artist... painted with fabric.

"Rooted in Tradition: Art Quilts from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum" is a lovely surprise at the Michelson Art Museum in Marshall, Texas. Two large galleries host a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, and unusual ideas for something many consider to be a bedroom accessory.

These intricate mismatched and pieced together creations may never rest upon sheets over a bed. Instead, they're tactile pieces you can see at eye-level.

It's easy to overlook the possibilities of a quilt. What started out as a way to use leftover fabric became an art form, but one that rarely left the home. These quilts, though, are reminiscent of another utilitarian art form.

In Medieval times, cloth and padding was often hung on walls during the winter to help conserve heat. Those hangings ranged from the fantastic tapestries hung in Europe's castles, to simple layers of rough cloth or straw in modest homes.

The first thing I thought of when I entered the gallery, was wow, castle tapestries. But closer inspection changed my mind.

Some of these quilts are bursts of color, like this spectral geometric pattern. Each piece was hand-dyed, then assembled carefully.

The bands of darker color in this piece are from where the artist turned the fabric as it was sewn so you can see the underside. The meticulous handwork involved took months, if not years, but the finished piece is an enduring piece of art.

Another piece is displayed on the floor. From across the room, it appears to be a simple patchwork piece. But when you look closer, you see dozens of tiny coffins with skeletons, and a scattering of cars.

An even closer inspection shows these aren't cloth cars and skeletons -- the plastic skeletons and metal vehicles have been sewn into the pattern, a tactile representation of a dream that goes beyond fabric.

The art quilt movement that started in the 1980s changed the nature of how many artists perceive quilts. In a generation, we've gone from simple block quilting to the creation of complex collage and applications in the field. And this is the result.

There are 64 pieces in this exhibit, from 52 art quilters. They range from geometric wonders to landscapes to art deco to outlandish. They're definitely worth inspecting up close.

You can find them at the Michelson Museum of Art in Marshall, Texas through January 20th. The museum is located at 216 North Bolivar Street and is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. For more information, call the Michelson Museum of Art at (903) 935-9480 or check out the museum's website.

Catch this story, along with other Tie Dye Travels, on by listening to the Tie Dye Travels podcast.

UPDATE 9/5/17.  I've added photo credits to the images and included more below.  The podcasts no longer exist, but thankfully this story does.

The Michelson Museum hosts other exhibits at the moment, but the quilt exhibit originally came from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Mueum in Golden, Colorado. The exhibit from 2007 does not appear to be touring anywhere, but the book for the exhibit is available on Amazon. Images of some of the quilts appear in the Quilt Index.

I also wanted to note the really cool kids room at the museum - which I didn't appreciate at the time like I would today.

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