Art quilt themes run deep

They may be tiny, but they make a big first impression.

They may be tiny, but they make a big first impression.

The 37 art quilts exhibited in the Kiwanis Gallery at the Red Deer Public Library are each only a foot square, but depict everything from detailed birds’ nests to an expansive lake. (Magic Lake, created by Deborah Bray of Calgary, even comes complete with a dock and two itty-bitty canoeists.)

Sometimes the squares are pure abstractions — such as the colourful Lightning Storm on Mars, made by Cochrane’s Karen Jurek with beads and decorative netting.

But sometimes their themes go deep.

Those Who Knew The Child Are Now Gone, conceived by North Vancouver’s Linda Sharp as a bronze forest hiding a human face, “is a quiet tribute to the generation who are now finding that no one who knew them in their childhood or youth is (still) alive.”

The common message found in the Meet the Best of the West Exhibit is that fibre designs can be taken to the level of original art, said Patti Morris, who organized the show for the Studio Art Quilt Associates Inc. It’s being presented by the Red Deer Arts Council and public library.

Morris, an award-winning Red Deer quilter, noted that many of the exhibit’s artists from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba work out of their basements and had no previous public exposure. “Some of them didn’t even think their work was good enough to be in a show like this — but look at it. Some of the (squares) are amazing.”

The spectacular colours, swirls and lines of Sharron Schoenfeld’s Azami Ha leaf motif were created, in part, with the Saskatoon artist’s painting and drawing skills.

A child’s enthusiasm prompted Winnipeg’s Valerie Wilson to make Bliss, a quilt that depicts a tyke joyfully running past a bear statue in a park.

Jaynie Himsl of Weyburn, Sask., made Full Spectrum, which resembles a brilliant sunset sky above rolling terrain, out of cording, ribbon, crochet cotton, embroidery floss and yarn.

Another brilliant sky scene, Arbutus Sunrise, was the smallest strip quilt yet completed by Coreen Zerr of Nanaimo, B.C., but Morris predicted it won’t be her last.

“She usually does these huge pieces but she really enjoyed doing this. I think she’s going to do a lot of tiny pieces from now on.”

In Orange Fern, Margie Davidson of Edmonton darkened fabric around a stenciled fern leaf, then painstakingly quilted intricate veining on the fern.

Margaret Blank of Mirror used embroidery thread to create grasses in her depiction of two grain silos, Mutt & Jeff, while Red Deer’s Wendy Greber created textural tree bark, in Alberta Trees #2.

Morris admires Greber’s style and technique and marvels at the fact that she wasn’t sure if her work was show-worthy.

Morris’s own work, Patti’s Rocks, is a subdued study of stones in greys and beiges — but other fibre art pieces in the show were created along more esoteric lines.

Internal Combustion, by Paula Jolly of Mossbank, Sask., uses a tie-dye technique to suggest how the effects of respiration and digestion would appear inside the human body.

Susan Wittrup of Regina created I See A Symphony, involving layering transparent fabric over hand-painted cotton with beading, to suggest musicality, while Burnaby. B.C., resident Mardell Rampton used strips of coloured fabric to make Into the Light, “to celebrate my journey out of darkness.”

This show’s journey has, so far, taken two years — the travelling exhibit has been seen in seven centres in Alberta and B.C. It’s next going to the Studio Art Quilt Associate’s office in New York, and may tour in the U.S.

“The feedback has been amazing,” said Morris, who believes the display has served two purposes — it’s offered exposure to some very worthy Western Canadian fibre artists, and has also expanded the public’s perception of what’s possible through fibre art.

It continues in Red Deer to March 2.