Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jean M. Judd asks the controversial question: Art Quilt or Quilt Art?

Jean Judd, who is spending a few days in sunny Arizona for the Mesa Contemporary Art Exhibition, was amazed when I commented that I found it refreshing the way she uses traditional patterns in her art quilts. My words pressed on a sore spot, a point of controversy in that no man's land between art quilts and traditional quilts. For me, her quilts are the best of both worlds. Thank you Jean for guest blogging. You are definitely a Subversive Stitcher: Armed with Needles!

Pictured here are her Choir of Angels, Photo 2. Wyoming Valley #2, and Photo 3. International Harvester quilts -- Dawn

By Jean M. Judd, Textile Artist

Since 1991 I have been making textile artwork focusing on incorporating traditional quilt blocks and techniques, into quilts that really are quilt art according to viewers and collectors alike. Many of my pieces have been juried into both fine art exhibitions as well as traditional and art quilt shows.

In 1998, I read the book “Surprising Designs from Traditional Quilt Blocks” by Carole Fure. This is not a pattern book or technique book, but a way of looking at complex traditional quilt blocks and discovering the unlimited design possibilities using just one block in a quilt. It really was a turning point for me in how I looked at making my art quilts.

The first result of this discovery was Choir of Angels Tapestry Quilt (81”x81”). I started this piece in March of 1998 and didn’t complete it until 2005. The quilt was designed from the center, out to the final binding. The block that I used was the Wyoming Valley block originally designed for the Nancy Cabot series in the Chicago Tribune newspaper in the 1930s. The block had 65 pieces consisting of triangles and squares.

The quilt is heavily hand quilted and was juried into the 2006 Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibition at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Albany, New York. The quilt won the Catherine Hastedt Award for Hand Workmanship and was featured in some of their newspaper articles.

Other judged quilt shows that it has been entered in, have brought mixed results. At NQA’s show in Columbus, OH the same year, the judge’s comments were that it was in the wrong category as it wasn’t traditional. The World Quilt competition in 2007, the piece was entered in the Innovative/Contemporary category and the judge said it belonged in the Traditional category. This is where I started to decide that it was all subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on what is considered traditional quilts and what is an art quilt. Now I refer to all of my work as textile artwork and let the viewers’ decide.

Subsequent quilts made using the Wyoming Valley block, turned out very differently in design from the Choir of Angels Tapestry piece. Wyoming Valley #2 (108”x108”) was started in February of 2002 using commercial sports fabrics for the focus fabric. The center of the Wyoming Valley block was used as the focal point when designing this quilt.

This quilt, Wyoming Valley #4, was designed from the center out and uses a very unusual bright orange. Each section used a different sport fabric and the edges of each block were designed to make the background work as a receding border. This piece is also hand quilted and was finished in March of 2003. The Wyoming Valley block is used in a regular orientation here.
In Choir of Angels Tapestry, the block orientation is on point Wyoming Valley #4 (93”x81”) was started in 2003 and completed in 2006. The International Harvester emblem design was used with permission of the company. This time when using the Wyoming Valley block, I concentrated more on what happened at the block joining and made multiple borders appear. The center square of the block isn’t the focal point in this design.

Wyoming Valley #4 was juried into the AQS show in Nashville, TN in 2007, and the owner was amendable to letting me have the quilt back in order to send it to Nashville for display. This quilt is on the owners’ bed during the winter months, and then is displayed in the great room on the wall during the summer. It is a great way to be able to use a large quilt all year around, and for it to fulfill both its roles as bed quilt and artwork.

Many of my clients are looking for large quilts to fill huge wall spaces and they want them to still retain the aspects of a traditional quilt. They are very interested in the unique textures created by the hand quilting and the unusual designs I use in the hand stitching.

I have 2 more commissions for textile artworks using this quilt block. They will both be 101”x101”. The first one is already pieced and ready for hand quilting. This one, Wyoming Valley #6, looks nothing like the preceding quilts. It is always exciting to see what will come about in the design process. When it is completed, it will be featured on my web site. You can see detail images of the featured quilts there as well.

Thank you to Dawn for asking me to be a guest writer on her wonderful blog, Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. There are some very talented trailblazers featured here and more to come, I’m sure. Continued Success, Dawn!


Victoria Findlay Wolfe said...

ha! love that it has the international Harvester logo! I just posted yesterday about their trademark red.... That's what keeps us farm girls apart from the rest... ;-)

Really lovely quilts. love that orange and blue one...
art quilt or quilt art? All in the eye of the beholder...
beauties from where I sit...

Jean M. Judd, Textile Artist said...

Thanks for the comment, Bumble Beans. It most definitely is in the eyes of the beholder and sometimes that can make a difference when joining organizations and entering some judged quilt shows.