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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Arts Center exhibits modern quilt artwork

I stumbled into the Grinnell Arts Center and Gallery—926 Broad Street—on a particularly cold day expecting that the contents of the Iowa Art Quilters Guild’s exhibit would add to the toasty warmth of the building. But instead of seeing bedspreads, pillows, and, well, quilts, my weary eyes only spotted what looked like paintings adorning the Arts Center’s walls. I made a mental note to find out more about “where” the quilt exhibit was being held, but before that, I allowed myself to take a quick look at the supposed paintings.

Textile artist Rebecca Loew runs the quilt display sponsored by the Grinnell Area Arts Council, currently operating out of the old Stewart Library. The quilts were made by the Iowa Art Quilters, each quilt hand-sewn, machine-stitched or soldered together and often hand-painted - Aaron Barker

What I saw next changed my simplistic perceptions about quilt-art forever. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. What I had thought were paintings were made entirely of cloth and different fibres—they were the exhibit itself! The intricacies of the artists’ works were evident in everything—from the use of different materials to the varied techniques.

I made my way through the one-room exhibit at a snail’s pace, stopping closely to examine any and every piece that caught my attention. Pieces that were particularly fascinating included “Moonlighting,” an image of a crane in front of full moon, “What’s Black and White and Blue All Over? Domestic Violence,” which featured blue limbs scattered across a chaotic background of black and white. “Life Blood,” was a fierce explosion of reds, strangely reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefes “Red Cannas,” and the chaos in it was evident not only in its title and colours but also in its varying texture.

Artists made use of a variety of materials ranging from the more standard fibres, ribbons, threads and beads to the somewhat bizarre Tyvek and face wipes, and drew upon different materials and techniques for different pieces. Interestingly, the more serene landscapes and nature-oriented pieces such as “The Watcher” featured less variations of texture, with the artists relying mostly on appliqué, embroidery and comparative uniformity within materials. More abstract pieces such as “Ice Storm” and “Planet Emerging” drew upon a variety of techniques such as felting, stamping, painting and stone- and wirework.

Some of the more alternative pieces included a portrait “Amelia,” “Fall Memories,” a wooden branch with quilted leaves, “Unravelling,” the image of a woman whose flowing hair consisted entirely of a weave of different coloured materials, and a wool felted vase.

Though I was the only person at the Arts Center when I went, this exhibit definitely deserves attention, as it is absolutely fascinating to see what is ordinarily considered a traditional art form used to create modern art. Iowa Art Quilters Textile Artists will be on exhibit at the Grinnell Arts Center and Gallery until Sunday, Dec. 19.

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