Abstract Art in Quilts

The National Quilt Museum

This selection of quilts from The National Quilt Museum highlights how quilters explore artistic styles through textiles. These quilts utilize freeform techniques, varied materials, and contemporary methods to express the artists’ creativity, emotions, and inspirations. 

“Blushing Triangles 3 is the third in a series of designs based on a repeating triangular design that explores color interaction. I created a digital painting of the coloration of the design using Adobe Photoshop. The painting was printed onto a series of silk fabric squares using archival inkjet ink. I machine pieced the squares together and added more color with D'uva pastels. I used acrylic fabric paint to paint the cotton backing fabric. I heavily machine quilted the piece using rayon and cotton threads.

“I am passionate about creating with fabrics, threads, paints, and dyes. The interaction of color and line fascinates me. While I enjoy experimenting with different media, it is the tactile nature of cloth that I love. I am drawn to geometric patterns and the visual ambiguities they can project, and this theme continues to surface throughout my work. An avid computer user since the late 1980s, and a Macintosh user since 1990, I enjoy using an assortment of computer programs as design tools and various printers to create printed cloth of my abstract designs and images to include in my quilts. My on-going challenge is merging yesterday's traditions with today's technology and materials to create visually expressive and compelling art.”

-Gloria Hansen

"The main portion of the design is pieced, and then additional layers of transparent fabric are applied to the background areas, creating a soft, diffused effect similar to watercolor. A curved motif, repeated in a number of different ways, is reminiscent of blossoms, buds or flames. The red areas mingle with the blue, bringing to mind the merging of two elements as diverse as fire and water."

-Judy Dales

Whether working with abstract or representational images, Judy's affinity for curvilinear design is evident. The curved shapes dance, float and undulate. The lines flow. The designs are imbued with an elegant grace that reflects the artist’s affinity for curves.

Lonni Rossi developed a written story of Cabins in the Cosmos. She describes it as “a floating colony in outer space of artist and new age philosophers who are fed up with the world that is always fighting and violent. Searching for a different way to live, the colony becomes a beacon of freedom, light and communication for those on earth.” To illustrate the communication aspect of her story, Lonni embellished the surface with 18 computer memory chips and one aviation artifact from the fuselage section of a Douglas DC-3 (an airliner).

"I am a fiber artist. With fabric and thread, design, color, texture and form, I strive to tell stories about the possibility of beauty, encouraging the viewer to imagine something out of the realm of their own reality, thus allowing them the opportunity to dream about beautiful things."

-Lonni Rossi

"Following my training and practice as a research scientist, my approach to quilting is decidedly experimental. Just as scientists seek for truth and understanding in small, well-defined inquiries, quilters may piece together bits and pieces into an artistic theory of life."

-Vicki Hallmark

The machine embroidery and repetitive flame shapes in the design of this quilt enhance the explosive visual image radiating from the center. The energy and movement visible here are achieved by the use of color overlays, especially the orange and yellow on-point frame contrasting with the dark square beneath.

"The inspiration for this quilt began in a series of ribbon quilts. The design was sketched on graph paper and then enlarged. The ribbons were drawn freehand and transferred to the top."

-Libby Lehman

“When I think of energy, color, pattern and movement, and ‘makin’ a joyful noise’ I think of Libby Lehman’s work. Her quilts embody all of those qualifiers and more. Squares and circles loop, intertwine, fuse and dissolve through spatial illusions that seduce and intrigue. The magic that she creates with needle and thread is unparalleled, and has inspired legions of today’s quilters. Hers is a unique body of work that builds on the past while standing squarely in the present.”

-Michael James

The technique that creates the looping ribbons in this quilt are "freemotion" quilting, a technique in which a quilter uses the sewing machine much as a painter uses a brush.

Many overlapping colors of thread create vibrant shading, texture, and dimension.

Aletsch is part of a series of quilts that represent my efforts to synthesize sensory responses to a particular space: the vast mountainous basin in the Swiss Alps that encloses the Aletsch Glacier, the largest in Europe. In the summer of 1988 I spent several days hiking along its perimeter, which extends many kilometers down from the Jungfrau firn. What impressed me most was the very audible sound of millions of gallons of water rushing unseen beneath the perfectly still expanse of glacier. It seemed incongruous: the unrelenting movement of so much water and the stone rigidity of so much ice. Combined with the brilliance of the light and the clarity of the air, that incongruity made for a very memorable scenario.”

-Michael James

Nature is often the inspiration for Erika's imagery, expressed texturally through use of color, pattern, piecing, and hand quilting. Grace is constructed of hand-painted, torn fabrics that have been machine appliquéd to a base. The raw, torn edges, untrimmed threads, and relaxed design style create a surface that echoes Erika’s interest in organic structure. It is part of a series in which Erika uses these techniques to create landscapes that become personal narratives. Erika comments, “The stylized hands among the rectangles at the foot of the trees suggest a path, a metaphor for the human journey. The trees lean over the path, protecting the traveler.”

"A passion for creating something of substance from raw materials led me to quilting. It is this same 'making' that has helped me find the strength and resiliency in what is sensitive and fragile."

-Erika Carter

Heide’s expertise in fabric dying and color placement result in stunning, evocative quilts. Her one-of-a-kind fabrics are the foundation of her work.

“I had started dyeing fabric professionally in 1994 and just managed to make a living from selling my fabrics. At that time I only allowed myself relatively small amounts to keep for my own artistic purposes. But – a little bit of everything can end up being quite a lot, too. So I ended up with all these strips of different width of a new batch of poplin that dyed beautifully. It was so wonderfully overwhelming to work with these that this particular piece almost made itself effortlessly on my workwall.”

-Heide Stoll-Weber

“My images are abstract and non-geometric and do not rely on a block/grid structure. I am seeking to recreate the apparent artlessness of nature's organic forms. I am fascinated by the flicker of light on moving water, the shimmer of the Northern Lights, the drift of clouds, and the patterns of pebbles washed up on a beach. I am also drawn to structured patterns as in the photography of cells and crystals, to units of aggregated texture such as brick and stone walls, circuit diagrams, and building facades. I have studied Japanese design to see how it combines structure and natural forms."

-Judith Larzelere

"I work abstractly and I am interested in setting up an ambiguous figure/ground dialogue through the manipulation of hue and value"

-Judith Larzelere

“A cell can be described as the functional unit of a larger whole,” writes Sue Benner. “I think about cells as an organizing device in many contexts, but the biological cell is a particular source of fascination for me. These shapes live in my mind and are the building blocks of my world and my art.”

-Sue Benner

While pursuing a degree in molecular biology and masters in biomedical illustration, Sue Benner created her vision of the microscopic universe in painted and quilted textile constructions. Her early work propelled her to become a studio artist in 1980, working primarily in the medium which later became known as the Art Quilt.

Sue is an innovator in her field, creating original dyed and painted fabrics which she combines with recycled textiles to form fields of structured pattern, vivid beauty, and riotous variation.

Virginia explains that Move Over Matisse I was inspired by “Matisse cut-paper art” and is typical of her work by the use of abstract shapes of vivid colors, and the free-wheeling approach to appliqué. She enjoys working with bright jewel tones of fabric and a lot of black, which she uses to add depth.

“Coming from an academic background with no formal art training, but lots of home sewing, I started out thinking of quiltmaking as a very enjoyable and exciting craft. However, over time I have found it necessary to learn more and more about artistic principles, in order to express ideas and feelings that are important to me. The central image of this quilt was drafted in mirror-image perspective, and each small section was machine pieced to paper, using a method I have worked out to make all the pieces fit together accurately.”

-Alison Goss

"Photographs are the starting point of my work. I first search out an interesting subject to photograph. I then do a drawing from the photograph and add transparencies that I call "ghosts" to float in and out of the image, often I also add color by making a small watercolor painting that I superimpose over the first two drawings to create a many-layered image hat departs from reality."

-Katie Pasquini Masopust

"I enjoy painting without any inhibition, then searching that painting for a perfect little composition that I can enlarge and make into a quilt. Sometimes I make a painting, then a quilt of that painting, then a portion of the quilt becomes inspiration for another painting, and that painting may hold another composition for a quilt. I like moving back and forth between the two."

-Katie Pasquini-Masopust

Credits: Story

All quilts are part of the Collection of the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, United States.

Image rights belong to the individual artists credited.

This virtual exhibit was created by Laura Hendrickson, Registrar.

www.QuiltMuseum.org

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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