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Stewart gallery features textile art

The exhibit will be on display until May 25. Photo by Sofia Mendez.
The exhibit will be on display until May 25. Photo by Sofia Mendez.

“Bricks & Blocks,” a new exhibit by Ames-based artist Catherine Reinhart, opened at the Grinnell Arts Center’s Stewart Gallery on Monday, April 16. A reception at the Stewart Gallery, which will include an interactive performance by the artist, will be held on Saturday, April 21 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“My artistic voice is one of second chances,” Reinhart wrote in her artist’s statement. “I make fiber art with discarded textiles to create works dealing with the themes of redemption, connection and care.”

“Bricks & Blocks” features an old queen-size quilt, which Reinhart deconstructed by cutting it up into small blocks. A friend of Reinhart’s purchased the quilt at a state auction in southern Iowa. Eventually, the friend realized the quilt was just taking up space and wanted to get it off her hands. 

According to Reinhart, it was a “monstrosity of polyester.” Still, something drew her to it. 

“I just felt that I could add value, or I could … get people to look at it in a more respectable way, or a more valued way,” Reinhart said. 

She had also recently given birth to her daughter. Entering into motherhood made her think about the value of things that are typically forgotten. 

“With the process of being a mother, you do a lot of things that people also forget, or they take for granted, or they just don’t value. So I just felt like, in being a mom of a small child and getting this quilt, that I needed to look and find value in places that were overlooked,” Reinhart said.

According to Reinhart, creating the textile blocks in “Bricks & Blocks” was very much a technical and formal challenge. Reinhart first cut the quilt up into small sections, and then worked to mimic the patterns and color interactions of the quilt in her textiles. With a sewing machine, she sewed in a grid, using the technique of free motion stitching to construct the cloth. The entire series took three years to complete.

The “Bricks” aspect of the exhibit will be introduced at the reception on Saturday evening. While visiting Grinnell, Reinhart was struck by the brickwork on all the buildings.

“Being a textile artist, I loved the patterns of the bricks,” Reinhart said. “And just the brick as a symbol or an object, a common object … also a forgotten object. We don’t see bricks, we see buildings … but they’re everywhere in Grinnell.” 

A site-specific artist who strives to incorporate an interactive component into in all her exhibits, Reinhart knew she wanted to do something with bricks. So she designed hollow plexiglass bricks, and during the reception, she will fill them with thread and leftover fabric scraps. Audience members will have the opportunity to fill their own. The bricks will stay at Stewart Gallery, and visitors will be able to move them freely around the space. 

As an undergraduate at Iowa State University, Reinhart studied printmaking and fiber arts. She then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in textiles from the University of Kansas. Her past works range from two-dimensional fiber works to larger installations to printmaking and drawing.   

“I have always done tons of drawing. I even think I draw with the thread,” Reinhart said, adding that she thinks of her fiber works as sketches.

Reinhart’s art has  enjoyed relative success in recent years, having been shown in a number of different locations across Iowa, regionally and across the country. Additionally, Reinhart has received multiple grants, including one from Grin City Collective, which made “Bricks & Blocks” possible. 

“I love the varieties of material, I love the thread and the different qualities that thread has, the way that it behaves. …  I’m also interested in using textiles because I think they are a really powerful bridge to maybe people who are not so in tune with art,” Reinhart said. “We are very familiar with textiles — we live in them, … we clothe ourselves with them [and] we cover up with them, and so I think there’s just this familiarity and comfortableness that textile art immediately possesses, that really automatically inclines people to be receptive to looking at fiber art.”

“Bricks &Blocks” will be on exhibit at the Stewart Gallery until May 25.

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