Miami Valley Art Quilt Network creates a scene with Dayton Landmark Exhibit
I’m going to say “quilt,” and I want you to conjure all of the images in your head that you can muster. It’s a free-association exercise. It’ll be fun. Okay, ready? Quilt! Are you thinking about … colorful, geometric patterns hanging on walls or draped over the ends of beds? Are you missing your grandmother and the endearing way she made a blanket for you out of all of your old baby clothes? Are you able to picture anything other than the animated commercial for Quilted Northern bath tissue where all of the ladies sit around hand-stitching toilet paper? Haha aww … that dedicated hen party, making sure we get all of the comfort we deserve. All right, now that that’s out of our system, try to stay with me while we explore the beauty, the challenge, the vision that is art quilting.
“Art quilting is art that happens to be quilted,” explained Miami Valley Art Quilt Network (MVAQN) President Sue DeSantis. “We’re using the medium of fabric and fiber to express our art.”
And express they have! MVAQN is currently showing their Dayton Landmark Quilt exhibit at the main branch of the Dayton Metro Library at Third and St. Clair Streets downtown. Seventeen members of MVAQN have contributed to the creation of six scenes depicting iconic Dayton landmarks. Each scene was sliced into panels to be designed by different artists and then brought together to create a tapestry as uniquely and intricately woven as Dayton itself.
Some panels are pieced, some appliquéd. Some were painted then quilted, others had the details drawn on then stitched. Some have added three-dimensional details like bells and skirt hooks. Rust-dying was used in some instances to give buildings texture. One artist used lace for the trees to imitate the dappling effect of the leaves.
“You’re dealing with color, and you’re dealing with texture in a way that really resonates with people,” explained project organizer and MVAQN member Lisa Quintana. “There’s no advantage of one technique over the other, just different styles, different looks, different ways of doing things.”
“We’re trying to do things to encourage and promote art quilting, versus your basic bed quilting,” added DeSantis. “We’re trying to start thinking in new directions, experimenting.”
When I inquired as to how long a panel would take to create, I was met with laughs from both Quintana and DeSantis. “Depends on how much pressure people put on you,” chuckled DeSantis.
The idea for the project was conceived in the spring of 2009. “Yeah, it took that long,” said Quintana. “A lot of the time that we spend doing this is actually thinking about it, then gathering the materials, seeing what works and so forth.” And to actually construct the piece? “I would say working a good five hour day, being realistic, probably took me a week and a half total, maybe. Maybe more. It takes a lot of time, a lot more time than you’d think.”
Some of the time that it took to put together the exhibit was spent wrangling the artists themselves. “By their nature, artists tend to be independent and often kind of solitary people not used to working with other people in a group project like this,” explained Quintana. “Made it a little bit hard,” she added with a smile.
But, oh, the results! After each artist was given their assignment, they went to work creating their individual panels, keeping their work from one another only to be revealed once everyone had finished. The end products are gasp-worthy.
“We were amazed at how all the lines really went together, not knowing exactly what the other people were going to use, how they would choose to interpret their piece of the photograph,” said DeSantis.
“I’ve done a lot of things over the years,” said DeSantis. “I taught stenciling for a long time, I did decorative painting, I did all the crafts and sewing and everything coming up through. Quilting is the one thing I have stuck with because you can do anything. You don’t have to just sew blocks together and make big bed quilts. You can paint, you can bead, you can piece, you can do anything! There are no rules. You just kind of pick your favorite thing and work from there.”
“For me, there is a connection to history,” said Quintana. “Traditionally, quilting has been a woman’s purveyance. It’s also a really long historical vent within the United States. When I work on it, there is a connection there that’s far longer and far more immediate than any other connection I could make. There’s a whole different kind of commentary that you can do with quilting that you can’t necessarily incorporate in oil painting, in watercolor. It is a much freer expression, and I think that’s another thing that quilting allows people to do, especially art quilts that give you the freedom to go right out there and try stuff and do something different.”
MVAQN is doing for quilting what dubstep is doing for music: making you question what defines the medium and pushing the limits of what people can accept. MVAQN won’t stop. They’re redefining art, one stitch at a time. “It just, it’s FUN,” declared Quintana. “You should try it!”
The Dayton Landmark Quilts exhibit will be on display at the main branch of Dayton Metro Library through Dec. 27. Additional showings will be held at South Park United Methodist Church from Jan. 6 to Feb. 27 and at Southminster Presbyterian Church from March through April. For more information about MVAQN, visit www.mvaqn.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Lumpkin at firstname.lastname@example.org