Birdworks Fiber Arts

Artist to Watch

Art Quilt Quarterly | October 2021

Energized Focus
A strong emotional response to something energizes me as a quilt artist. Often these emotions are connected to environmental issues both big and small: global warming, habitat loss as it displaces people, plants, and animals. I have to let an issue marinate for a while until I can “see” my feelings in a visual message.

Wilderness locales, particularly Alaska and the high Arctic, have been a special interest all of my adult life. We lived in Juneau, Alaska, in the early 1970s, and we spent many summers in Denali National Park & Preserve, canoeing Arctic rivers by ourselves and with close friends. I was an artist-in-residence in this beautiful park in 2014.

The varying habitats of the tundra and the boreal forest offer quiet, solitude, space to feel, and never-ending imagery.
Series At Play
Almost anything can spark a series. I have found inspiration in radio segments, magazine articles that push me to do further research, conversations with friends, group processes, and travel to breathtaking places, such as Antarctica and South Georgia Island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sometimes series just end because I have exhausted my interest, but more often, they morph into some- thing either directly connected or tangential to the original subject. As I said, emotions connected to environmental issues are important to me, and they have a lot to do with why I belong to several collaborative groups. In A Time of Change is a collaborative arts-humanities-science program sponsored by Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research Program through the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Boreal Forest Stories is the third cycle of this program in which I have collaborated with Alaskan quilt artist Ree Nancarrow.

The Alaska-based Elements Artist Group is another important catalyst for thoughtful new work. We are six artists working in various media, most of whom live in interior Alaska and are centered in Fairbanks. In 2017, the group embarked on a project where each member visually responded to music composed by participants in the 2017 Composing in the Wilderness program in Denali National Park & Preserve. Our exhibition has traveled for three years to venues in Alaska and the 48 contiguous states of the United States.
Evolving Style
For a number of years, I have used fused appliqué as my primary technique, although I began with traditional piecing. After an early workshop with Nancy Crow, I incorporated more improvisational, abstract, and geometrical piecing. More recently, naturalistic and specific imagery has emerged in my work, enabling me to tell narrative stories.

Materials and color play are integral to what I do. I have a dyeing practice that is semi- independent from my quilt art, and, over the years, it has grown to be an important experiment in color, value, and pattern. I take pictures of everything I see, and I collect images of patterns and textures from natural and urban settings. I’m inspired by patterns like chipped crosswalk paint and service access covers. This imagery often appears in the fabrics that I dye and print.

I also like to feel and play with fabric. This goes back to my earliest memories of talking with my mother at the sewing machine, deciding how I wanted a garment to look and feel. While I occasionally work with paper, I always return to fabric as my favorite medium.
Meaningful Support
The work that is most meaningful to me touches core values and emotions. I use media that supports my narratives, from global warming to women’s empowerment.

For my ongoing series of goddesses, I conduct a lot of research. In order to compete to be the subject of a quilt, the goddess needs to be powerful and strong in her own right, not because she’s linked to a powerful god. I’m developing an artist’s book series titled Who Knew? that focuses on women inventors, scientists, engineers — any woman who made a valuable groundbreaking contribution to her field and wasn’t recognized.
Meaningful Support
Over the years I have dabbled in three- dimensional work but always returned to wall quilts. I recently dove deep into the genre, producing a 22-panel accordion book of 16-inch- wide quilt pages, varying in height up to 18 inches. The quilts are sandwiched around one- eighth-inch Plexiglas to provide form. Open, the piece is almost 9 feet wide on a display table. Called Southland Odyssey, it was a central element in an exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art in Oceanside, California.

Now, I am interested in creating more three-dimensional works, with the possibility of including my artist’s books and freestanding sculptures. I enjoy the experimentation needed to figure out how to make what I see in my mind’s eye become reality.

I also recently prepared a site-specific installation in the Parker Gallery at Oceanside Museum of Art, which debuted in September 2021. Titled Migration, it focused on sand hill cranes.
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