Patricia Autenreith Mary Beth Bellah
Jeannette Clark Linda Colsh
Sandra Townsend Donabed
Catherine KleemanMyania Moses
Dominie NashCarol Overmyer
Marina Salume Susan Sarabasha
Sandra SiderPat White

by Sandra Sider

In the letter sent to the artists whose works were not accepted for Quilt National 1997, Hilary Fletcher praised all those who applied to Quilt National as "a select and talented group of artists." The concept of "select" does indeed describe the art quilts illustrated below, all created by members of our QuiltArt on-line community. Founded in June of 1995, QuiltArt now has more than 950 subscribers in ten countries. From quilt artists in the United States, Canada, and Belgium we are happy to share some of the pieces that will not be included in this year’s Quilt National.

We wish to thank Hilary Fletcher for permission to reproduce the text of her rejection letter, which most of us consider very well done, and for allowing us to use the name "Quilt National" in our own modest presentation. We encourage everyone to visit the Quilt National Home Page, and to view the actual exhibition if possible.

Before discussing the "Select Rejects" we would like to remind viewers that the illustrations below are only approximate representations of the quilts themselves. Like all images in digital format, and especially photographs, these photographs of unique and original works of art can only begin to suggest their subtle tones and textures. Most of the quilting was accomplished by machine and such closely-spaced stitches are virtually invisible in the photographs. Moreover, several of the photographs of works submitted for this exhibition were sent with apologies about their quality; we did not, of course, try to scan them. For any type of competition, high-quality professional photographs can make the difference between being accepted or rejected.

In "Select Rejects" the QuiltArt list brings you the works of thirteen artists, several of whom have had pieces exhibited in previous Quilt Nationals or in the San Diego "Visions" show, published in international art journals, and viewed in invitational exhibitions.

A cursory viewing of "Select Rejects" probably will prompt the response, "But why wasn’t this one or that one included in Quilt National?" After studying the provisional list of accepted artists for 1997 in the context of previous Quilt National exhibition catalogues, I can suggest one possible answer. As most of you know, two of the three jurors (Jason Pollen and Joan Schulze) are involved with surface design of various sorts, and the third (Nancy Halpern) treats the surface in a painterly fashion while focusing on pieced structures. I would hazard a guess that an overwhelming number of the 1,300 quilts submitted to Quilt National featured surface design processes and techniques. This was probably the year that every quilt artist in the world who uses surface design thought that the door would open wide to such works; they all could not possibly have been included. Every great art quilt exhibition must present a balance of artistic approaches to the medium. In this way, we all benefit from a general enhancement of all aspects of our art form.

Even though other considerations most likely came into play, such as inferior slides and artists attempting new techniques that were not yet mastered, the fact that the three dozen quilts submitted for "Select Rejects" are either painted or printed, or constructed with a painterly feeling for mass and color, causes me to assume that surface design figured prominently in submissions to Quilt National. In fact, my own photographic pieces are the only ones structured within a quiltlike, although somewhat asymmetrical, grid system.

Four of the artists in "Select Rejects" began with whole cloth, building the surface with paint, screenprinting, photographic transfer, embroidery, or appliqué. Like the majority of quilts in our exhibition, these pieces express personal responses to women’s history, the natural environment, and cultural or political issues. Jeannette Clark, who refers to her whole cloth as the "page" on which she wrote her rondeau pattern "poem," arranged strips of color to represent the flow of speech. Carol Overmyer crafted a spectacular wheel of women’s portraits, Susan Sarabasha painted and then quilted an appealing wetlands scene, and Pat White combined screenprinting with a powerful photocopied image positioning the individual within a conformist society.

In quilts combining pieced and appliquéd techniques, perhaps the most personal are those by Linda Colsh, whose work reflects the tensions in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989; and by Catherine Kleeman, who created a "healing" quilt documenting her broken wrist, including sections from the purple shirt that had to be cut away to set the bone in her quilting hand. Patricia Autenreith questioned the treatment of natural resources in a witty interplay of images (beautifully handquilted); Sandra Townsend Donabed’s tribute to Fats Waller virtually dances off the wall with masses of black and white united by ornamental patterns; and Dominie Nash continued her ongoing dialogue concerning art "forms" with great swaths of hand-dyed color humming against each other.

Two of the three artists using embellished appliqué "painted" dynamic movement across their quilts. Myania Moses’ surreal foliate swirls create an eerie landscape, and Marina Salume’s whorls of machine quilting effectively frame and isolate the agitation in the heart of her piece. Finally, Mary Beth Bellah moved beyond the flat surface to interpret the comfort of a nice cup of tea in an appliquéd, quilted teapot with beaded handle.

We hope that you find some inspiration and enjoyment in our baker’s dozen of "Select Rejects," which celebrates art quilts, quilt art, and the amazing Quilt National.



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