By Laurie Carmount
Presently exhibiting at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, in Minden, is Colour with a U Too. This is a touring, national exhibition from the Studio Art Quilt Associates. A nonprofit organization, SAQA’s mission is to promote the art quilt: “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.” Over the past 30 years, SAQA has grown into a dynamic and active community of nearly 4,000 artists, curators, collectors, and art professionals located around the world. Their vision is that the art quilt is universally respected as a fine art medium.
Two major parts are married with art quilts. Fine art, similar to a painting, drawing or printmaking, combined with quilting, which means stitching together layers of material. Fibre arts is another categorization that could be considered. Art quilts are a world unto themselves of creativity and skill that move beyond traditional quilts.
Traditional quilting has always been in my life, growing up in the St. Jacob’s area of Ontario. Mennonite quilts are famous and the yearly fundraisers are a major event. My mother quilts and was a judge for years at county fairs. I recall once sitting beside an elderly Mennonite woman and watching her hand quilt the most minute, consistent stitches imaginable. A minimum of two weeks is needed to hand quilt a queen size quilt. Besides the quilting, there is the piecing and creating of each square which are sewn together to which a backing and fill are added.
Growing up on a farm, quilts were essential on cold winter nights. Made with wool, the weight of these quilts were considerable and comforting.
Art quilts are not something that will keep you warm at night but will warm your heart with their beauty and uniqueness. Generally a wall hanging, art quilts will implement a variety of stitch styles (hand-appliqued, machine pieced, machine quilted), materials (embellishment with hand embroidery, bead, wire, dyed cloth, cotton, silk, wool and acrylic yarns, wire, fusible webbing, cotton thread, monofilament – you name it) and methods. Thread painting is a term I had not been aware of until this exhibition. It is an ongoing, inspiring world of art-making.
A traditionalist, or a Luddite, may struggle with the ‘quilting’ aspect in art quilts. Most of the quilting is achieved with long arm quilting machines. Some are impressive operations, with computers. The consistent swirls and designs can be managed by free hand or computer programs. Sometimes, the debate regarding the use of tools and end product comes into play in this instance. Does it matter that the majority of the work is mechanically done versus handmade?
This debate also happens with today’s photography. When cameras are automated and a print is done by pressing control ‘p’ on your keyboard to cause an expensive EPSON printer to slip out a slick photo, is it less or more a form of art?
Was Johannes Vermeer, famous Dutch painter, cheating when he used pinhole cameras to sketch his paintings to ensure accuracy?
The art world abounds with computer software that can create watercolour filters, giclee prints (that are hard to determine from the original) and mediums that are so advanced their application is super simple. There is no denying technology in art. It is another tool utilized however the artist wishes. It will continue to influence and everyone will determine where their lines stand and which others can be crossed.
Is it not more about the composition, the determination of colour and texture, the overall impression and process that makes us recognize the art? Make your own determination. Visit this exhibition at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery and view the nine art quilts and discuss the method.
Artists participating in this national exhibition are from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Their goal is to reflect on the theme of diversity and inclusion and to give ‘colourful’ representations of our Canadian cultural identity. Each offers an individual perspective on how we as Canadians see ourselves in our social, historical and physical landscape.
The Agnes Jamieson Gallery is located at 176 Bobcaygeon Road in the town of Minden. Admission is by donation. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. COVID-19 protocols are in place. For more information contact the gallery at 705-286-3763.