In the late 1970s, Nancy Crow and other fiber artists in Athens, Ohio, were using fabric to create works that were pieced, layered, stitched and stuffed — “quilts” by virtue of their structure, although they were intended to be viewed on a vertical, not a horizontal plane.
Their original designs and use of innovative techniques and color combinations made them unacceptable to the organizers of traditional quilt shows, who were most interested in beautifully crafted bed covers with recognizable patterns. The only exhibit opportunities for these contemporary quilters were in mixed media fiber shows alongside baskets and weavings.
Crow and fellow fiber artist Françoise Barnes recognized the need for an appropriate showcase for what are now known as “art quilts” and teamed up with other dedicated volunteers to organize an exhibit devoted entirely to this relatively new breed of contemporary quilt.
For more than three decades, the biennial Quilt National exhibit at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens has showcased the best and most exciting contemporary art quilts being created around the world.
More than 1,000 works by artists from 46 states and 22 foreign countries were submitted for Quilt National ’11, the 17th in the series of these exhibitions. Select works from the biennial are on display at the William King Museum in Abingdon, Va., where they will remain through July 14 in the United-Legard Galleries.
Quilt National was intended to demonstrate the transformations taking place in the world of quilting. Its purpose was then, and still is, to carry the definition of quilting far beyond its traditional parameters and to promote quiltmaking as what it always has been — an art form.
The works in a Quilt National exhibit display a reverence for the lessons taught by the makers of the heritage quilts. Many of the works hold fast to the traditional methods of piecing and patching. At the same time, however, the Quilt National artist is intrigued by the challenge of expanding the boundaries of traditional quiltmaking by utilizing the newest materials and technologies. These innovative works generate strong emotional responses in the viewer while at the same time fulfilling the creative need of the artist to make a totally individual statement.
Each Quilt National collection goes on tour for approximately two years following the close of the exhibition at the Dairy Barn in Athens. The Dairy Barn is the only venue where you can see the entire 80-plus piece collection.
The William King Museum, located at 415 Academy Drive, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays; and from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for students, children and William King Museum members.
For more information, call (276) 628-5005.