The Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery held a reception for its first exhibit of the spring semester “Quilt: Traditional/Not Traditional” on Wednesday Feb. 3. The exhibit features quilts made from a variety of materials including fabric, paper, plastic and metal wire. According to Director of Galleries Cynthia Hawkins, the variety of media used in these quilts is exactly what she expected to see in the submissions for the exhibit.
“That’s why it’s called nontraditional,” Hawkins said. “We have unusual material that’s used like traditional cotton … and some are traditional cotton, but the patterning is entirely unexpected.”
“Quilt: Traditional/Not Traditional” features both invited and juried artists. According to the Geneseo website, it’s the school’s first quilt exhibition in eight years.
Professor of geography Irina “Ren” Vasiliev has some experience of her own with nontraditional quilting. “I’m a geography professor and a cartographer but I’m also an artist and I do sort of this kind of stuff,” Vasiliev said. “I have what’s considered nontraditional quilt maps hanging in my office that I made … and this is a nice collection of nontraditional quilts.”
Gallery coordinator senior Britina Cheng noted that she also prefers the nontraditional pieces. “I think the nontraditional quilts are often just a little bit more engaging,” Cheng said. “And the found objects ones with the plastic woven in—I can’t imagine the process they went through just to do it. I imagine the material might have been really flimsy to work with, or just not as sturdy as cloth and that it would be a really tedious job.”
While helping Hawkins to set up the exhibit, Cheng added that she was particularly cautious with Scott Andresen’s fragile, paper-thin found material quilts.
“When I was working with them, I felt I had to be careful … because I was like, ‘How do they put this together?’” she said. “It’s brown paper. What if I rip this? It might just ruin the entire integrity of the piece.”
Several of Allentown, Pa.-based artist Kathy Bachofer’s quilts are also on display. “I’m a programmer, but this is more my passion,” Bachofer said. “I hit 35 and I said, ‘It’s time to go back to school and do what I want to do.’”
Bachofer’s “Abstracted Eucalyptus” is a traditionally stitched quilt, while “Fragmented Structure 2” involved a digital printing process.
“[‘Fragmented structure 2’] was actually a log cabin quilt I made about 10 years ago,” she said. “I put it into Photoshop, just digitally manipulated it and I printed it out … and quilted it.”
Another found object artist—Rebecca Mushtare—used plastic bags and embroidery to send a message about consumer habits in her “Consumption” series. These provocative found object quilts look like paintings from a distance, but the stitching is revealed up close. A sign at the bottom of the particularly direct “Consumption Portrait #5 (Dialogue)” reads, “RECYCLE.”
“[Mushtare] is using [quilting] like a drawing, kind of a narrative,” Hawkins said. “It’s borderline abstract but it has figures in it.”
By contrast, the quilts of Jill Odegaard—who trained Bachofer while she attended Cedar Crest College in Allentown—resemble sculptures almost as they do traditional quilts.
“Even though Jill [Odegaard] is using a weaving method, it’s actually fabric sewn over wire,” Hawkins said. “So that you can mold it so that it has a three-dimensionality.”
In particular, Odegaard’s three-dimensional “Spaces Between” sets a new standard for artistic quilting.
“The way it plays with shadows in the background, it kind of gives it multiple layers with the way the light hits it,” Bachofer said. “There’s just such a depth here, just visually. Where does the quilt end? Does it just continue onto the wall? Is that just another layer?”
While many may view a quilt as a comforting blanket for winter nights, the quilters featured in “Quilt: Traditional/Not Traditional” bring a surprising amount of depth and variety to their art.
“I think that’s what I try to get to in most exhibits is the variety and how nuanced an idea about a certain medium is and how many forms it can take,” Hawkins said.