quilt guilds

ICON Gallery Exhibit, plus a night in Fairfield

Work by Astrid Hilger Bennett, Icon Gallery, Fairfield

Contemporary Art Quilts of Astrid Hilger Bennett, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Judy Zoelzer Levine is featured exhibition at ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa. What a wonderful installation: clean, light-filled and spacious, the best installation of my own work I’ve ever come across. This is ICON’s first-ever art quilt exhibition; exhibit dates are October 7 to November 12. ICON is located at 58 Main St. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday noon to 4pm, Saturday 1 – 4pm, and by appointment. For more information, contact ICON Gallery by phone, 641.919.6252.

“Curators Wendy Read and Karen Harris have brought four of the best contemporary art quilters in the region to ICON Gallery,” says ICON Director Bill Teeple. “If you are used to traditional quilt making in Iowa, this will be an eye opener. It contains the visual and conceptual impact of a contemporary painting exhibit.” My personal opinion is that the Midwest is rich with exceptional art quilters. We appreciate the compliment, and curator Wendy Read, also a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) Iowa Representative and Karen Harris did a great job balancing styles of work, which makes for a conceptually strong show. What follows are images more from my own section of the exhibit; the work was divided up by artist into different mini-galleries. By the way, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Astrid Hilger Bennett, are all members of the Surface Design Association, and all four of us, including Judy Zoelzer Levine, are members of SAQA. For a more detailed look at images in this post, be sure to click on the image and watch it expand.

Looking towards the gallery with Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery

more from Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, ICON Art Gallery


left to right: BJ Parady, Carol Coohey, Astrid Hilger Bennett & Director Bill Teeple in front of a work by Coohey, ICON Art Gallery

Astrid with her work, Icon Gallery, Fairfield, IA

Carol Coohey is a newer, talented fiber artist living in Coralville, Iowa,  who has recently really found her own voice. This collection of work, entitled Voices, is powerful and was developed using many surface design techniques inclduing drawing, discharge, screenprinting and painting before quilting. Carol explains, “My most recent work focuses on the rights of girls and women, especially in the Middle East.  To make my collage paintings, I use un-gessoed cloth as the foundation.  I draw, paint and print on cloth with dye, discharge paste, ink and acrylic paint.   I spend half my time teaching and conducting research on violence at a university and half of my time creating art.  The themes in my research often carry over into my artwork.  Earlier in my career, I worked as a graphic artist and an art therapist.

In the Voices Series, I focus on how policy and culture affect the lives of women and girls living in the Middle East.  I explore universal themes, such as the right to an education and the influence of culture on girl’s and women’s decision-making. Stylistically, I’ve drawn on graffiti street art which has become a form of political protest in the Middle East during recent years.”

Illinois artist BJ Parady works primarily on silk and recyled fabrics, creating smaller pieces where marks made by stitching are important. She interprets Midwestern landscape. “My art reflects the microcosm in which I live—where the tall grass prairie used to be. I am inspired daily by the big skies, the reflection of light on water, the remaining remnants of native plants. I have come to embrace the idea of abstraction—capturing the essence of a moment rather than a literal depiction of a scene that could just as easily be photographed.”

Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence series is composed of 25 art quilts interpreting the female human form. A Wisconsin artist, Levine created these works over a span of many years.

Astrid Hilger Bennett approaches her pieces as she would a piece of music, using painting, monoprinting, screenprinting and other techniques to make large scale, abstract wall art. For more information on  her work, please check out the gallery and other pages on this website.

Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery

Iowa SDA-SAQA-IA Artquilters Meeting

Iowa is a big state with a small population, smaller than the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Our Surface Design Association (SDA) and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) are small enough that it makes sense to pool our resources and meet together in different locations in central and eastern Iowa. I held an earlier meeting last February at my home, and this time Carol Coohey shared her home and inspiring studio with us. Nineteen women attended from the Des Moines area, Elkader, Grinnell, Guernsey, Oskaloosa, Fairfield, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City/Coralville.

Karin Gundlach explored the issue of what kind of finishing presentation is most appropriate to art quilts and fiber art in general, especially smaller pieces. She posed several questions in an online SAQA forum and received a wealth of technical responses, from mounting on a protruding cloth-covered or painted “frame,” to shadow box framing, to armatures. In general the consensus was that framing or mounting of some kind helps to set these pieces off and relate them to their environment. Some participants shared pieces in which presentation was discussed.

Kris Grover shares her ideas for studio design (above), with Amanda Murphy discussing lighting (below)

Kris Grover, former University of Iowa space planner and mixed media artist then shared her Studio Design Challenge, where she converts a small 10 x 10′ bedroom-type space into a functional studio. She shared drafts of this presentation, done on her laptop with many images included. This was a very interesting presentation that we could have spent more time on; Kris had many ideas for finding simple storage units at janitor supply shops and places like Cabellas. One idea was installing a simple overhead bike rack to hang three dimensional works from while they’re in progress. Then
Amanda Murphy, a lighting consultant for Light Expressions and a mixed media artist working three dimensionally with concrete and felt, shared ideas and answered questions for adequate lighting.

Lastly, we had a tour of Carol Coohey‘s impressive studio space. Not grungy like mine, but airy and clean. She does deconstructed screen printing in the way that Kerr Grabowski does, but adds her own spin and has recently started doing regular screen printing. One look at her extensive wall of fabrics, all hanging from a cork strip rail, and one can’t help but admire her grasp of this process.

Carol Coohey with her wall of deconstructed screen printed fabrics

After the meeting, participants split up, some attending Dianne Day’s show at Arbor Gallery, some going to central Iowa City to visit Home Ec Workshop, Prairie Lights Books and Iowa Artisans Gallery, and some home. An interesting, enlightening time.

Out and about: meetings & presentations

Last Thursday evening I had the pleasure of speaking to the Jewel Box Quilt Guild in Grinnell, Iowa, so named because of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Jewel Box Bank Building in that community. This year I’ve given my powerpoint presentation four times: at the IQS Quilt Show in Chicago (April); a morning and evening session at Northeast Iowa Quilt Guild, and the most recent one in Grinnell. Previous presentations included guilds in Iowa City (130 attendees) and Waverly, Iowa.

My presentations usually start with an introduction and a few questions to gauge my audience. How many have tried dyeing? printing? I show some actual art quilts, explaining that I use only my own fabrics and that all my pieces start out as white fabrics. After explaining a few technical things about dyes, silk screens and monoprint vinyl, I launch into my power point, which is a visual tour of the part of my art career devoted to art quilts. I start with a few recent pieces, move to images of techniques, then launch into a chronology of how I came to make these and what has been influential over the years. When the chronology is done, I show some studio shots. Then I have a series of “mark making” photographs gleaned from travels and changes in landscape. I finish with a series of teaching images taken during workshops. Usually I bring books, magazines, Surface Design Association materials (yes, I am on the Board), tools and a big basket of sample fabrics which I circulate among the audience early on. Always there are questions, which I encourage and answer as needed. It’s really a lot of fun. And yes, I do charge for these presentations. There is this thing, needing to earn a living.

I also teach workshops and find that most participants enjoy starting with basics. I pack in a lot of information, hopefully not too much, but my aim is to give participants a rich immersion into the wonders of painting and printing with dyes and fabric paints. What do I enjoy the most? Watching participants slide into the pure joy of process, of expression, color and creation. I always tell them, don’t focus on the end product- you will need to practice! But enjoy the ride…

Quilt World Tidbits…

item 1:
Last summer during Iowa City’s Iowa Arts Festival, the Old Capitol Quilt Guild held its biennial, two-day exhibit of quilts at the United Methodist Church. A non-traditional quilt show, the quilts were draped over the pews rather than displayed on walls. Well attended and showing a variety of approaches, techniques and skill levels, it made for a worthwhile visit. My own work is a little different from this intensively pieced approach, but I still appreciate the phenomenon that quilting has become.

item 2:
On a rainy day last fall, I was invited to speak at the Friendship Quilters Guild in Waverly, Iowa. Aside from mortifying myself by locking my key in the car for the first time in my life (it all ended well enough), I have fun at Guild meetings. Program Chair Cathy Busch has a great sense of humor and an adept manner of instruction. She spoke about the upcoming “Super Sew” to make quilts for the Cedar Valey Hospice. I didn’t get all the details straight, but basically the “Sew” involves teams of players with rules not unlike football, their pre-game packet of fabric sewn as “Yardage.” Different skill levels of quilt designs reflected different scoring levels. Teams with Team captain had been selected earlier and would be in competition with other Guild teams. A few “free agents” had also been identified. I appreciated the sense of purpose in this communal activity, which for those not familiar with Guild meetings, is pretty typical. Cathy has published articles about her various “game” strategies in Fons & Porter Love of Quilting. The “Super Sew for Charity” article appeared in Sept/Oct 2004. “Quilt Guild Bingo” was in the Sept/Oct 2006 edition and “3-6-9-12 Sew” was in the March/April 2003 edition.

item 3:
Look for an article on my artquilt work and doodle pillows in the February edition of Quilting Arts!