Monday, November 05, 2012

Please Don't Miss This 5-Star Show!

From political to folk,
from traditional to way outside the box,
from peaceful to wild,
from beads to bicycle chain,
from whimsy to satire,
the current show at the La Conner Quilt Museum
has it all...
they're all created by men!

Forty-one incredible quilts, created by 15 highly-creative men from the USA, Holland, and Japan. I tell you, their quilts make me swoon, give me heart palpitations. The show runs until December 30. Please, don't miss it! The What-Where-When details are at the end of this post. Let's get to the quilts!

At the most out-of-the-box end of the scale is John Lefelhocz of Athens, OH, who uses the oddest materials to make quilts: sugar wrappers, match sticks, roof flashing, breakfast cereal, plastic bugs, and other assorted materials. If your mind says, "Impossible," take a look below.

Ms. Ing Links by John Lefelhocz, 59" x 35"
The pattern/design on this quilt is created by hundreds of painted bicycle-chain links sewn to the quilt top with beads. Do you get the humor of the title? (Hint: run the Ms. and Ing together.) All 5 of his exhibited quilts are examples of how much fun an artist can have mixing word-play and imagery. Each is a puzzle of wit, challenging the viewer to find all the jokes and meaning it contains.

Near the other end of the scale is David Taylor, of Steamboat Springs, CO, whose meticulously pieced and machine-quilted works are realistic without being "like a photograph." They are fiber and thread, yet somehow give us a good whiff of movement, dimensionality, and emotions found in real life.

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, 47" x 35"

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, detail

Up Up and Away by David Taylor, 42" x 52"

See what I mean by realistic, but not photographic? Can you feel the magic of looking up at a hot air balloon rising in the early morning air, and sense Marmalade's hesitation and intense curiosity about the snow? Wonderful!

Quilts by Shawn Quinlan, of Pittsburgh, PA, tell stories, calling attention to things that aren't quite right in the world around us, adding layers of humor and satire to the expected warmth of a fabric quilt. Being a tree-lover and a person who is a little ill-at-ease with Christmas, the quilt below really hits the mark with me. See the circular and carpenter's saws?

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, 46" x 33"

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Here's another of Shawn's quilts (4 in the show), one that expresses a number of complex thoughts about the political scene in our country's capitol. Check Shawn's website for revealing detail shots.

As My Daddy Always Told Me, "At Least the Democrats Will Throw You a Bone" by Shawn Quinlan, 48" x 29"

Next, let's look at two amazing works by Leslie Gabrielse, of the Netherlands, quilts that show just how expressive and painterly applique and hand stitched embellishments can be! Having spent 10 years of my life folk dancing, I am particularly drawn to the one below, the largest quilt in the show.

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, 118" x 92"

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail
I am fascinated by the way his work reminds me of collage art, of layering papers, stamps, and paints. Of the four quilts by Leslie in the show, my second favorite is a portrait he did as a commission.

Karlee Abbott, by Leslie Gabrielse
While we're on the subject of portraits, how do you like this portrait of President Obama by Michael Cummings of New York, NY?

President Obama by Michael Cummings, 50" x 72"
Of this quilt, Michael says, "I wanted to play with his racial makeup....his father was black and mother white...that dictated my choice of colors in construction of the quilt. After that choice, I wanted to have some thought-provoking statements by famous people...statements that addressed issues in our society related to both democracy and racism. Issues that are alive and well today and that President Obama has to encounter as leader of our country." Of course, because of Micheal's excellent visual-communication skills, I knew all that, just from looking at the quilt.

Here's another one by Michael, this time a portrait of a place, obviously one familiar to him.

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, 72" x 96"

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, detail

My brother, Thom Atkins, found himself in very good company in this show, and his four beaded quilts add a wonderful contrasting element, a sparkle, to the mix. The two quilts below are my favorites among the four of his pieces included in the show.

The Man in the Window by Thom Atkins, 30" x 34"

The Ravens of Angel's Crest by Thom Atkins, 35" x 51"

Eight other quilt artists, who happen to be men, join those mentioned above, adding their own unique process and style to the mix. The whole, to my mind, is a luscious salad, its flavors delightfully complex and memorable.

But before I get to the show info, remember the teaser photo at the beginning of the post? That picture is a detail from the most jaw-dropping quilt I have ever seen. I mean EVER. And that includes all the thousands of quilts I've seen while teaching at various quilt festivals. It is THE most incredible quilt I've seen in my whole life. This isn't the greatest picture, but please click on it to see it full-sized.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, 87" x 80"

Shingo Nakano, of Japan, cut out over 16,000 little hexagon shapes from hundreds of different fabrics and hand-stitched them together to make double-ringed flower shapes. Arranging the pieced flowers so their colors suggested the flow of the seasons, he then hand-stitched them all together. Each hexagon is about as big as your thumbnail. Hand-quilting around each petal, completes this masterpiece of hand work.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Summer-Fall

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Winter-Spring
If you follow my blog, you know I've been working on a hexie quilt (see here). Having already spent hundreds of hours on it, I can almost imagine the time, measured in years, it took to make this quilt. But the beautiful hand-work is not its only virtue. The fabrics and arrangement of colors send me into a place of inner calm, of beauty, of spiritual fulfillment. Thank you, Shingo Nakano for allowing us this glimpse into your inner world. If you like this quilt, wait until you go to La Conner. There are two hexie quilts by Nakano in the show! The second is even larger, with about 18,000 hexies. While you are there, take your time to study these two quilts; you won't see anything to compare for a long, long time.

What: Material Men: Innovation and the Art of Quilt Making
When: October 11 - December 30, 2012
Where: La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Monday & Tuesday by appointment
Exhibit Curators: Geoff Hamada and Kathleen Kok

Link to further exhibit information
Link to museum website

Have I been clear enough? Go see this show! Make time; find the moola; just do it!


  1. Wow, wow and triple wow. Thank you for sharing these quilts and explaining some of the details not immediately visible in photographs. What amazingly tallented artists. All of the quilts you featured are wonderful but I have to say that Thom's quilts totally move me. The subtlety of The man in the window is stunning. As I look at The Ravens of Angel's Crest I can hear the faintest whisper of snow falling on snow and wait for the inevitable raven's caw. Amazing! I wish I could see this exhibition.

  2. It's so interesting to me to see what fellas do with cloth & stitch. How they tell a story with materials not necessarily associated with their gender. This looks soooo intriguing, Robin!! And that hexie quilt? Well, as you know, I am not a fan....but....THAT quilt is absolutely BEYOND AMAZING and I really, really look forward to seeing it ;>]]

    Thanks for such an informative post ~ excellent work for a bunch of dudes!

  3. Amazing works--that hexagon quilt is to-die for!! I love the flowing colors--gorgeous. Julierose

  4. Karlee Abbott by Leslie Gabrielse is As. Tonishing. I would put this quilt on my WALL.

  5. oh! so glad you shared these...just amazing. congrats to your brother on gorgeous work for the show! I think the ravens are my favorite. just what I needed today to warm up a cold day...

  6. These are amazing pieces of art. Very inspiring and educational stories with each. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Your brother's Ravens quilt is a real stunner... so evocative!

  8. I love the Man in the window quilt - so stunning. And your 2011 bead journal piece. I tried beading on a piece but I need more practice to build up my confidence

  9. Absolutely amazing artworks! wow!

  10. I particularly enjoy the different techniques used to portray faces (both human and animal - especially the golden cat!)
    I'd go see this exhibit in a heartbeat - especially now as it will be closing .... at the end of the month!

  11. Hi Robin,
    I've just been awarded a Leiber award for creativity/blog, and it's now my turn to choose someone that I think deserves it- so I've chosen you! Please see the page for details...

    We cross paths on the BJP,x


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!