Saturday, February 12, 2011

Urban Art: Graffiti Quilts and Fabric

Summer in the City by Hilary Gooding
I recently watched via Netflix, part of a documentary, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," about street art. It fascinated me. The art as well as the lifestyle and the attitudes that drive these artists to create on public walls, signs, sidewalks, trucks, trains.... And they are so good with spray paint.

If Susan Shie hadn't found fabric, she might be a Street Artist! And that would be a good thing, too. Although the lifestyle is a bit hard, always fleeing from the police and working at night and in secret. Sounds Subversive!

There are several quilters who have taken the street art off the buildings and out of the night by creating their own 'graffiti wall fabric art'. I have a sample here, (see first photo) made by Hilary Gooding.

She includes such a delightful play by play account of the making of this quilt at her website. She describes it as, "Modern day version of cave paintings as seen on walls and surfaces in every town and city around the world. I have tried to include samples that represent my life span from the protests in the sixties to the sophisticated use of spray paint today. Brick wall fused and quilted by machine. Acrylic paint sprayed, stencilled and hand painted. 105 x 130 cm."

Hilary adds, "It was a fun piece of work with plenty of drama along the way – lots of learning curves but I’m still pleased with the end result. I have done a few of what I would call ‘message quilts’ but have no plans to do any more graffiti quilts."
One of Stepanie Brandenburg's fabric line designs

I'm also excited about a line of fabric created by Stephanie Brandenburg for Camelot Cottons called 'Urban Art.' So edgy and speaks to the side of me that wished I could have been with the Egyptian people as they fought for Democracy!

Even quilters have wilder sides, that's why we work with sharp objects! Writing about this makes me feel a bit 'subversive.' I like that feeling. Gets me out of the winter rut and loosens the bonds on my attitudes.

Of course street art comes in a variety of forms. One that seems less underground, less graffiti-like, is the well known 3-dimensional art by Edgar Mueller. His new website offers more insight into his work.

Please feel free to add names and websites to other fabric artists who are making street art. And by the way, street art has made its way into legitimate art, collectors are gaga over it. It may be the way to go.... But the old masters, who sneaked around in the dead of night to post their art on sides of buildings, street overpasses, and sidewalks are not quite so excited about the legitimate side of street art. But fabric artists don't have that problem. We still are fighting for that legitimization.

Additionally: Since posting this, I've come across another form of street art and it is stitched in yarn -- Yarn bombing! It is similar to the knitted toilet paper on the sideboard of this page, but less organized, more happenstance. I would be thrilled to run across some of this and other forms of street art, wouldn't you?

Sky Writing by Cathy Kleeman
Upon Linda Colsh's suggestion, I contacted Cathy Kleeman who graciously responded with two of her pieces with a revealing look at the construction of this pair of mirror images.

Echo by Cathy Kleeman
Cathy wrote in an email: "Sky Writing and Echoes. If you set these side by side you can see that they are mirror images of each other. I made Sky Writing as a piece for the Paducah exhibit and then had the idea that its partner should be an echo of it with the design and values reversed. What intrigues me most about these pieces is the layering of the paint over the quilted surface and how it creates a visual texture that never gets boring. I create the quilt top by a raw edge fabric collage that is stitched together, cut apart, and stitched together again. This layer gets sandwiched with the batting and backing, and then quilted. The quilting draws up the surface, creating hills and valleys. Often I will enhance this effect by wetting the entire piece and putting it in the dryer, which causes the batt to shrink and emphasizes those hills and valleys. I then use a monoprint technique with a color paint that will blend the background together to give it a more cohesive look. The final layer is the graffiti scribble. I use freezer paper to create a giant stencil and iron it to the quilted surface. A light touch with a sponge brush applies the paint just along the surface so only the "hills" capture the paint. Somewhere in the process before the final scribble I will throw paint at the quilt to achieve wonderful abstract markings that can be so delicate yet very striking."

Also Phyllis Cullen has created a meaningful piece that she's allowed me to share. She wrote in an email:

"I'm including a picture of my graffiti based quilt, with a homeless woman sitting in front of the graffiti'd wall. It was made as part of our textile abstractions group's challenge for that month. the challenge word was "blight". It can also be seen on my blog at and on the Textiles Abstractions blogspot."  


Phyllis Cullen said...

You can see my graffiti quilt on our textile abstractions group blog. Our word for the month was "blight."


linda colsh said...

Cathy Kleeman's terrific art work, while using the art quilt format, has long reminded of street art:

Her Splatter series (my fave) and her new work with overpainted linear, calligraphy-like charcters is reminiscent of urban tagging.

Cathy will have two pieces from the new series in the National Quilt Museum's 20th Anniversary show "Celebration!" which I am curating. April-July 2011 in Paducah KY

Jeanne said...

I just watched the documentary and learned so much. Makes me want to go out and do some public commenting myself! And, I wonder if I would be more successful if I had gave myself a name like "Ms. Mindbender" or something :-)
I love Cathy's new series - great texture and lines. Wish I was going to be in Paducah.Will the show travel?

watching kereru said...

We are in the midst of a national disaster her ein hristchurch NZ after a 6.3 earthquake shook our city. A small group of us have been stitching all week, giving away love in the form of upcycled hearts and decorating the rubble fences with messages of support. check it out on my personal blog it's nice to feel connected to a bit of normality far away!

Lisa ONeill said...

Wow! Just found your blog today - I've got some reading ahead of me - looks very interesting.

Robbie said...

I watched "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and thought it was great! So interesting! Thanks for the post and info!

film_maven said...

Thank you for this lovely blog! My mom is a quilter, I think she is the most amazing artist.

Anonymous said...

havent heard from you in awhile
hope you post soon

Anonymous said...

hope all is well miss your posts

Jenny said...

Don't know why I've missed finding your blog.

Anyways. Quilt bombing in AZ