There are many different ways that I get my ideas for my art quilts. Sometimes it’s a particular combination of fabrics that have been piled up in my studio, or a color combination that pleases me. Other times, it’s a phrase of words or the title of a particular challenge by an art magazine, such as “Quilting Arts“, or “Cloth, Paper, Scissors“. For the quilt on the left, “Dinner for Three on the Banks of the Cabernet”, the theme came from a visit to a jungle retreat camp on Christmas Day, 1992.
My ex and I had sailed up the Orinoco River in Venezuela, and then hopped on a small jet to a small jungle retreat owned by the now bankrupt Viasa Airlines. There, in the middle of the beautiful Canaima National Park, was a breathtaking lagoon fed with several waterfalls. The unusual thing about the water was that it had been colored by the tannin in the native vegetation so that it appeared a deep purple-red color, reminding be of a good rich, Cabernet. The scene is still embedded in my memory,and became the theme for this art quilt.
This detail shot shows part of the imaginary Cabernet River that I envisioned running through this quilt. There are a number of rubbery, plastic clusters of grapes in two colors, deep purple, and a red color. The resilient texture of the grapes give them quite a realistic texture when touched, and they have held up well now for almost twenty years. To the far right, you can some hand appliqued doilies from China that I cut up and then fastened them to the top of the quilt. There are also some white, plastic snowflake beads that children like to play with that have been secured with burgundy colored floss. They suggested the same shape, on a different scale, of the burgundy circles outlined in white at the bottom middle of this shot. I like to repeat the same colors in similar shapes but different sizes, as I think that adds subtle visual interest when viewed up close. People see my pieces as being complicated, but balanced, and I think this use of repeating shapes and colors help to make that happen. If one could see closely into the background, one would see clusters of grapes outlined with white stitches. These are the “ghosts of vintages past”, an homage á la Dickens. Every vintage must build on those of the past, and my art quilts build on what I’ve created before.
Most of the left in this shot is taken up by a doily sewn on to simulate a plate, hence the “dinner” part of the title. There are two place settings together on one side of the river bank and the third is on the other side. “Why dinner for three?” you may ask. “Who’s the third person?”, could be another question. While working on this piece, I was reminded of Edouard Manet’s, “Déjeuner sur l’herbe”, a picnic along a river bank. In his painting, the woman in the foreground is nude, while all of the men have on their clothes. I’ve always wondered “Why does she not have any clothes on, but the men do?”. As for my own art quilt, I leave it to the viewer to make up their own explanation as to why there are three place settings.
I find that it’s often fun to combine my passion for art with that of good food and wine. Gardens are another favorite of mine, so many of my pieces have flowers in them. For me, all of the these pursuits are art forms and I view them as a composite of the life that I’ve crafted for myself. One leads into the other, and another combination begins, which for me makes for a life surrounded by various art forms.
What are your passions in life and how do you combine the different components? Do you use some of them as overlapping themes or do you keep your artistic life separate from the rest of your pursuits and endeavors?
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