Sunday, September 16, 2012

Art Show: "Line and Color," by Lisa Call at The ArtQuilt Gallery

Once again there is a new show at my favorite venue, The ArtQuilt Gallery in Chelsea, and this time I actually got to go and see the artist speak about her work.  The show, titled "Line & Color," will be on view through October 20th, 2012 and features works by Lisa Call, whom I had not previously known a lot about, but I am now a huge fan.

Lisa Call's gallery talk was filled with witty and informative thoughts on all kinds of topics - I'll include a few of my favorite bits from the notes I took, and hopefully my paraphrasing of her words will not be too inaccurate. As always, please forgive the inconsistency in the photos (for a better idea of what Lisa Call's work looks like, go check it out in person!)

Lisa Call Structures 115 at The ArtQuilt Gallery
"Structures #115"by Lisa Call
One of my favorite things from Lisa Call's talk was her description of her ongoing lack of relationship with what is trendy.  As an artist, she is concerned primarily with beauty and compositional integrity, and with achieving a sort of visual rightness, which is a thing that artists are uniquely inclined to seek out.  This concern for formal design qualities, along with the fact that Lisa Call does not incorporate any fancy cutting edge technology into her work, has meant that she is not walking a path towards trendiness.  This is, I think, true for a fair number of quilt artists, and the thing I took away from Call's talk is that if you approach your work with enough drive and take it seriously enough, you can build a solid career even in the midst of an art world that is not often concerned with the things you care about. 

Lisa Call Structures 72 & 32 at The ArtQuilt Gallery
"Structures #72" and "Structures #32"by Lisa Call
Call's total lack of interest in bringing technology into her work is particularly amusing in light of her job as a software engineer.  She's been a part of the computer world for basically forever, and finds that it holds zero interest for her - there is nothing she has to say through her work that cannot be brought about through a series of dyebaths, a twenty year old Pfaff and a massive investment of time. I think nearly all art quilters can appreciate this deliberate decision to embrace slowness in art.  Call says the success of her work may indicate that the world is ready to move towards tactile media again as part of a desire to bring beauty back into the world we inhabit.

Lisa Call Structures 38 & 143 at The ArtQuilt Gallery
"Structures # 38" and "Structures #143" by Lisa Call

The process Lisa Call uses to construct her quilts is extremely deliberate, and each step, from designing the work on the wall to cutting, piecing and quilting, involves no shortcuts.  As she says, no strip-piecing is involved - if a line is present in a certain spot it is because she specifically meant for it to be there.  I have a lot of respect for this way of working, and I enjoy how different it is from my own approach which favors reacting to a work as it develops in real time over careful planning.  One area where Lisa Call and I have a similar style, however, is dyeing!  Her way of dyeing is in direct contrast to her approach to construction - she uses no formulas, dyes only one yard of fabric at a time, and embraces the "you get what you get" quality that is the result.  Brilliant!

Lisa Call Dream 37 & 38 & Structures 97 at The ArtQuilt Gallery
"Dream "37," "Dream #38," and "Structures #97" by Lisa Call

Two final thoughts from Lisa Call.  The first is her answer to the inevitable question of where the distinction is drawn between functional quilting and Art Quilting.  Her response to this is simple and struck me as incredibly true.  The answer is Intention.  She creates her pieces with the idea that they are art.  That is their purpose, and it is definitely enough. 
The second thing is Call's suggestion of an artist that people interested in her work should also check out.  I think this is something I should bring into my posts on artists whenever it's possible - we can learn vast amounts from asking artists we admire who they go to for inspiration.  Her suggestion of an artist to check out is the painter Richard Diebenkorn, whose work is also carefully planned and meticulous.  

That's it - go check out the show!


  1. Thank you for the lovely writeup and comments on my artist talk. It was a pleasure to meet you last week and I'm enjoying looking at your artwork on your blog.

  2. I am a total fan of Lisa's spare, carefully considered approach as opposed to the kitchen sink/collages produced by so many quilt/fibre artists today. Whatever fabric an artist uses as a raw material - commercial, hand dyed, or commercial hand dyed - the important thing is what the artist DOES with the fabric that makes it art, or not. I love lo-tech.

    1. I adore her approach, even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool kitchen sink person! I do approach my kitchen sink with extreme care and intentionality along with a certain amount of randomness, though, so hopefully it works as intended. I wish my photos could do justice to the surfaces of Lisa's quilts - they're mesmerizing.

  3. thank you for this review. Lisa's work is just superb. I have been watching her work for years and it keeps getting better.

    1. Yes, this definitely makes me want to continue following her work as it develops - I will love seeing what she does in the future.

  4. It's a great treat to read this review and see some of Lisa's work as it is hung at this show. I am a great fan of her work, and love the highlighting of the concept of INTENTION as such a powerful force in the creative process. THANKS from those of us unable to attend.

    1. YES! The bit about intention really struck a chord with me, since much of my oun approach to my work is about exploring this exact idea.

  5. Thanks for this post. I hope to see the show, but couldn't make it to the artists talk. Lisa is a wonderful teacher and expresses herself so well.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts on Lisa Call's show - plan to get into NYC and see it soon!!

  7. Enjoyed reading your review as I won't get to see it in person.


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