Monday, September 27, 2010

Exploration and Return: Art Quilts by Carole Pollard

On view until November 5th on the second floor of the Stark State Student Center are 12 stunning works of fiber art worth several return visits. I happen to love art quilts, fiber works and things that required extensive hand work along with mental gymnastics to make a piece seem effortless. If I could work in another media, it would be fabrics. However, as with watercolor painting, when others can do it far better, stay in your own boat and just appreciate the view.

Carole’s bio and artist statement are posted so I won’t go into how they influence her work. An obvious connection exists and when you go see the show (which you will with an opening party on 9/29/10 5-7pm) my not telling you will allow for personal exploration of the intricacies of her craft. I was chagrined to find no dates, but thrilled to find titles. Her first ever quilt is in the showcase on the landing so it is easy to see where her work “begins” and where it is going.

Each piece has something fascinating to find so allow me to begin at the far left and walk along the walls telling my own story of discovery. Being a volunteer quilter, I can contribute my fair share of squares to an overall project, but to take a piece from ….ummm…pieces, to product seems daunting. The first to hang and an early project is “Little Blue Sister” with a companion next to it entitled “Quandaries Solved”. Both are similar in design and color using a peacock feather-like fabric print while utilizing both value and pattern as part of the curvilinear composition based on a standard 2” block layout. (Now doesn’t that just sound like I know what I am talking about!) In addition to standard quilting stitches, top stitching is part of the overall composition, a technique that explodes in significance as the quilts progress.

Next is “Wheel in the Sky” where flame-like shapes break the plane or format of the quilt itself. One corner is rounded. Yes, one definitely sees a swirling (though graphic in nature) star or other such cosmic entity spiraling in space. A majority of the “background” fabrics are of the same pattern, micro dots, but the blocks (the 2” squares which also form the basis of the design) transition in superb watercolor tradition with almost no hint of a break in the fabric line. I had to get really close (no touching!!) to see the seams.

“Things Fall Apart” still uses the quadrangle concept of the previous three pieces but really breaks away from them in technique. I found this one fascinating to see the rough and frayed edges of the border as well as hand stitching attaching net appliqués over watercolor fabrics to create subtle color changes. A vein of red crosses the quilt in both directions, leaking out a streak of intense color from behind other fabrics as if an open wound is bleeding. Pretty cool!

“Chi” is her logo piece which appears to be a compilation of various techniques and images found in all of her pieces, plus personal symbolism. “Odd Man Out” is a clever color block quilt based on a window pane layout using optical art concepts and incorporating one square that is relevant to the title. The way this section is done is part of the charm of art quilts as is the unevenness of hand stitching. As much as a person tries to get perfectly even stitches, it is nearly impossible and that very quality is what makes hand work so personal and special.

“Awakening” is the piece depicted in the paper last Friday and not done justice by that at all. One needs to see the dyed cheesecloth, pinked edges and beads which inhabit the surface of this pseudo crazy quilt. It is her first along the wall to really go laser cut (a patch design term meaning the edges are “cut out” and irregular, not confined within a standard format). Next to this one is the first of my two favorites, “Outrageous” which is a large piece based on optical block art, much like the show by Chepp at the Canton Museum. At first it seems simple, but the process of laying out the various values and intensities as well as the scales and the shapes of each block of color must have been quite difficult. Sometimes the simpler something appears, the more challenging it was to create, but what absolutely is essential to the success of this quilt is the use of rainbow thread. This additional color story brings another dimension to the work.

My second favorite and probably a personal best in show is “Bloom Time”, a true art quilt in every sense of the definition. To me, this piece is Carole’s personal story as it incorporates an orderly side that utilizes fabrics printed with words that transition to a more organic and flowing side that feels as if she has set herself free. One metallic leaf may be her inspirational spark or a seed of creativity that never left her soul. Masterful watercolor shifts of pattern and color are interspersed with the color blocking and appliqués found in the previous pieces. A tree in basic compositional usage is customarily symbolic of growth over time and leaves as parts of one whole, yet each different… I could go on with symbolism but you will understand when seeing the work up close.

Three final pieces that work as a series are on the last wall. Of the three, the center one caught my attention the most because it is most true to the traditions of quilting and not sculptural like the other two. Find the hands reaching across the top and how positive and negative shapes come into play more so than anywhere else in the show. I’ve reached my word limit so all I can say is that this show is stunning and I shall go back again to appreciate many of the details I have missed on this first visit. Good thing Carole retired so she can make many more of these creations for us to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Judi,

    Just out of curiosity, I Googled my own name, and your blog was the first thing that came up. Oh, my. And thank you.

    FYI, the only completely hand stitched piece I have ever done is the little one that was in the case. In the interests of doing more than about three pieces in my lifetime, machine work was all that made sense.

    Your comments about quilting as something you left to others were interesting. Certainly your remember a piece of yours that received Best in Show in a Canton Artists League (I think) exhibit at Stark Tech/Stark State.

    Praise is nice, but praise from an artist as accomplished as you is beyond nice. Thanks again.
    Carole Pollard