What is an art quilt?

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By Katy Korkos

If you’ve always wondered what exactly is meant by an art quilt, the “Seams Unusual” show, opening Friday at the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, should go a long way to clearing up the mystery.

Seventeen New Mexico artists from all over the state have chosen this emerging medium to portray their artistic vision.

The connections between this work and the traditional patchwork quilt can still be seen, but this work is intended for the wall and not the bed. The call for entries asked the artists to use a definition of art quilt that only required them to use two or more layers of fabric, held together by stitching.

Some of the artists have arrived at the art quilt medium with a background in painting and some have come from a background in crafts, but all have found this medium to be one where composition, color and texture predominate.

Jeri Beitel’s work is always colorful, often making use of innovative materials, such as compact discs. Her piece “Infinity” combines the traditional quilt block known as Cathedral Windows with a free form hand dyed background, floating fibers suggestive of clouds or smoke. Beitel is a retired art teacher who lives in Santa Fe.

Lee Meyer makes a powerful statement with her piece, using the gentle connotation of the quilt as her medium to speak out about the gulf between rhetoric and reality.

Lynn Welsch and Lynne Horpedahl show a love for pure bright colors in their enthusiastic pieces. Both Cheryl Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Dawson show fine craftsmanship in their abstract works. Dawson’s quilts “Ladders I” and “Caves and Canyons” reference the southwest with their earthy colors, while Fitzgerald’s two “Chromaflow” pieces use tropical blues and greens.

Mary Olivea’s work is enthusiastic and painterly, and contrasts sharply with Dawson’s and Fitzgerald’s fine craftsmanship. For Olivea, sewing appears to be more of an afterthought when she pursues her compositional goals.

There are also several more representational works in the show, including two by nationally recognized artist Patricia Gould, who won an award from NICHE magazine for her piece “Another Mystery.” The quilt shows a doorway Gould photographed while on an artist’s residency in Hungary. That work was also juried in to the “Originals” show held by the New Mexico committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Gould’s second piece in the Art Center’s show is called “California Claire du Lune.”

Julie Filatoff of Santa Fe also does representational work, with two of her pieces showing New Mexico landscapes. In her third piece in the show, called “Fibonacci Giraffes,” Filatoff plays with the Fibonacci mathematical sequence, in which each number of the sequence is a sum of the previous two numbers. In her quilt, the blocks are sized 2, 2, 4, 6 and 10 inches.

Many of these pieces are enhanced with beads. Sue Wyard has done a self-portrait in fabric, using beads to represent memories from her childhood. Jolene Ficklin’s “Blooming Batik” and Betty Busby’s “Close Up” both show stylized flower forms, with beads.

The art quilt movement is thriving in New Mexico, thanks largely to the leadership of Katie Pasquini-Masopust, who is the immediate past president of the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). The exhibit at Fuller Lodge was organized by the two regional representatives of SAQA in New Mexico, Gould and Katy Korkos.

Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) is a nonprofit international organization whose mission is to promote the art quilt through education, exhibitions, professional development and documentation. Founded in 1989 by an initial group of 50 artists, SAQA now boasts nearly 2,000 members worldwide, including artists, teachers, collectors, gallery owners, museum curators and corporate sponsors.

SAQA defines an art quilt as a contemporary artwork exploring and expressing aesthetic concerns common to the whole range of visual arts: painting, printmaking, photography, graphic design, assemblage and sculpture, which retains, through materials or technique, a clear relationship to the folk art quilt from which it descends.

Many of these same artists, including Gould, Jean Cowie, Korkos, Colleen Sizemore and Welsch, have work hanging in the Capitol Rotunda in Santa Fe with the “New Mexico Fabrications” show. The show in the state capitol runs through the end of August.

Los Alamos’ local quilt guild, the Piecemakers, also has an avid group of art quilters who will have an exhibit in the Portal Gallery in September.

The show will hang in the Art Center until July 26. The Art Center is open from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A reception for the exhibit will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the center.