Quilt Fest of NJ 2010: Part I, The Quilts

March 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Kathy and I attended Quilt Fest of New Jersey in Somerset, NJ yesterday.  I didn’t win any ribbons for “Blue Butterfly Day” or “Kyoto Ink,” but they looked great hanging and were in very good company.  I look forward to reading my judges’ comments; I already have in mind what a few of the “needs improvement” areas will be, so I’ll see if they agree with me.

"Medea Escaping"

"Medea Escaping" by Marilyn Belford

I actually liked the second-place quilt, “Medea Escaping” by Marilyn Belford, better than the Best of Show.  The use of fabric to create color blending was breathtaking, and her raw-edge applique was impeccably executed.  It’s an enormous quilt, yet it hangs perfectly square and flat, while still having some dimension in the quilting.  Truly masterful stuff.

"Butterfly Dance"

"Butterfly Dance" by Anna Faustino

The Best of Show quilt, “Butterfly Dance” by Anna Faustino, just wasn’t my cup of tea.  The metallic thread couching was well done, and the color and design were lovely, but it’s one of those quilts that’s been quilted so densely that it hung like cardboard.  Plus, I admit I’m just sick of those heat-fix crystals.  When Sharon Schamber and Renae Haddadin put them on the front and back of their multi-award-winning quilts starting about six or seven years ago, I thought they were gorgeous.  Now I feel like too many quilts took a tumble through the Swarovski factory on the way to the show.  Maybe I’ll be ready to see them again in another ten years or so.

The “Tri-State Quilt Competition” was actually only a fraction of the quilts on display; as with other Mancuso shows I’ve attended, the bulk of the display quilts were from various touring collections and special exhibits.  I usually enjoy the Hoffman challenge, but the 2009 challenge fabric was, shall we say, more challenging than usual?  A mint green and brown paisley wouldn’t be my favorite fabric ever under the best of circumstances, and being confronted with a wall of it bordered on nauseating.  I loved this quilt, though:

"Bee" by Nancy B. Dickey

"Bee" by Nancy B. Dickey

The bodies of the bees were made of corduroy and velveteen to create that lush, matte fuzziness of real-life bees; the juxtaposition of the realism with the fanciful pieced designs was really delightful.

I have to say, a lot of the art quilts just were not doing it for me this year.  This is a little internal war I have with myself whenever I go to a quilt show.  On the one hand, I am so glad that nontraditional techniques have been embraced by the quilting establishment.  I’ve read about the controversy when Carol Bryer Fallert won at Houston with a — gasp! clutch pearls! — machine quilted quilt in 1989.  (Perhaps I should put “quilt” in quotation marks, as every right-minded member of the Quilt Police knows that only hand-quilted quilts deserve to be called quilts.  Sniff!)  Ahem.  Anyway.  I’m glad that those of us who machine quilt, use fusible web or Paintstiks, etc. can all play in the sandbox too.  Which is why I get uncomfortable when I find myself standing in front of a quilt at a show and thinking, “That’s not really a quilt.”  I don’t want to be a part of the Biddy Brigade, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so open-minded that my brain falls out.

Ultimately, I think the techniques that rightly give me pause are the ones that use artistic expression as an excuse to be sloppy.  I’ve seen raw-edge fusible applique pieces that are peeling off, embellishments hanging by threads, applied color that has rubbed off onto adjacent areas, and chiffon overlays that have shredded.  I don’t think the show organizers are manhandling the quilts; I think that some of the art quilts are just a little too ephemeral.  Some years back, Quilters Newsletter magazine sparked quite the riot by publishing an article that suggested that fusible web shouldn’t be used in heirloom quilts because it tends to degrade over time.  Angry art quilters wrote in, saying that the magazine was threatening their ability to sell pieces to museums and collectors by publishing this information.

As a scientist, I say data is data.  While conclusions drawn from it may be colored by personal prejudices and preconceptions, if the data was properly collected, it stands.  But rather than being informed by the data and making future choices accordingly, some decided to attack the data — or the choice to make the data public, which is really worrisome.  Problems with “modern art” being made of unstable materials are nothing new; The New Yorker had an article last year about Christian Scheidemann,  an art preservation expert who specializes in modern art and who has had to restore works made of materials such as latex, elephant dung, and tree stumps.  As the author says, “the notion that a work of contemporary art might be built to decay makes many collectors and institutions understandably skittish.”

Having said that, though, it was a great show.  I’m proud to have had my quilts hanging in it.  And I have to completely endorse the Viewer’s Choice, despite the fact that our attendance on Sunday precluded our getting to vote.  “Crazy Sheep” by Debora Konchinsky, which also won for Best Hand Workmanship, would have been my choice, too:

Detail of "Crazy Sheep"

Detail of "Crazy Sheep" by Debora Konchinsky

I am not a crazy-quilt person and never have been, but this was so delightful and fascinating I defy anyone with an esthetic sensibility and a heart not to be charmed by it.  A full list of the ribbon winners, with much better pictures than mine, is available here.

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Entry filed under: Quilt Shows, Travel. Tags: , , , , .

Each One Teach One QFNJ 2010: Part II, More Quilts

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