Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Art Show: "Walking Through Time," by Sue Benner, at The ArtQuilt Gallery

There are a lot of things to be seen in New York City, and New Yorkers like to think of ourselves as having more of everything than pretty much anywhere else, but there are certainly some notable exceptions to this.

The first is stars.  I'm not sure exactly what happened, but when they were handing out stars New York must have waited to sign up for them until the very last minute - if you look into the sky at night, especially in Manhattan, you'll see how we ended up with just the tiny, dinky ones that were leftover in the bottom of the sack.

Another unexpected exception to the more-of-everything principle is Art Quilting.  New York is honestly not the most fruitful place to try and make it as an art quilter.

This situation is hopefully in the process of changing, however - in April 2011 New York got its only venue exclusively devoted to showing quilts, The ArtQuilt Gallery.  If a city is only going to have a single place that showcases quilt art, I have to say that The ArtQuilt Gallery is a pretty great one!  Their space consists of a single large, brightly lit room attached to The City Quilter fabric and supply store. It's impossible to go in there and not come out ready to have a great day, because you'll see gorgeous artwork and chat with open-hearted folks who can't wait to share their love of fiber art.

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"Specimen #2: Sampler" by Sue Benner, 2011

On view now (from March 20 through April 28, 2012) are works by master art quilter Sue Benner. I have been an art quilter for many years but am only just now starting to connect with the larger Art Quilt World and to learn about all the unbelievably talented people working in this medium, and as a result I had never heard of Sue Benner until I walked through the door of The ArtQuilt Gallery a few weeks ago.  Seeing Sue Benner's work for the first time, especially not having known about her beforehand, was a truly wonderful experience!

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"Wearing Plaid 1" by Sue Benner, 2011

You all will have to forgive the poor quality of my photographs - they really do not do Sue Benner's quilts justice at all, but I'm hoping they'll still inspire those of you who can make it to New York by the 28th to swing by the gallery and check them out.

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"Prairie/Wall 1" by Sue Benner, 2010

Sue Benner's work incorporates hand-dyed and commercial cotton, silk and synthetic fabrics that are painted, monoprinted, stamped and foiled, then cut into various specific shapes and fused into a single composition, then locked into place with elegant free motion quilting that is scaled perfectly on each quilt to catch the fabric edges as effectively as possible while existing as its own powerful design element.  As far as I can tell the quilts in this show involve little to no piecing, and I found this all-fused technique extremely intriguing - it seems like there must be endless potential for improvising as you go.

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"Studio History in Four Parts" by Sue Benner, 2010

Science seems to have been Sue Benner's first love - before becoming an art quilter she pursued studies in cellular biology - you can read about her history here.

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"Cellular Structure VIII (Oval Shift)," 2007 and "Display II," by Sue Benner, 2008

Some of Benner's quilts reference ideas related to the structure of cells in living bodies. She says about her Cellular Structure series:
"A cell can be described as the functional unit of a larger whole.  I think about cells as an organizing device in many contexts, but the biological cell is a particular source of fascination for me. These shapes live in my mind and are the building blocks of my world and art." 
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Four smaller pieces in the "Checks and Bars" series, by Sue Benner, 2011

These quilts for the most part take up entire walls and fill a room with brilliant colors, but as an artist who tends to work super small, I was happy to see these smaller-scale works.  These little guys really invite a person to get up close and examine them - there is A LOT going on!

I hope I learned some new design ideas and fabric painting and manipulation concepts from this show, and I am DEFINITELY needing to go make some art right now.  Go check out Sue's work, and get inspired!


  1. I saw the show. My husband also liked it. Your blog posting is a good revisit and maybe better than the show which was terrific.

  2. I would so love to see this show! Any hope of the Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA having it or any gallery in or near Boston?


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