Arts Focus: The Art of the Quilt

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

“Quilts have an interesting history, amazing stories about their creation abound, and the techniques used by their makers vary extensively,” explains Martha Stewart in the forward to the book Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (Rizzoli, $75).

“What nimble fingers, what imagination, what lovely combinations of coloring and patterning, and what extraordinary artisanship went into the fabrication of these works of art,” she continues. “There is a style of quilt for every taste, and every taste will discover more than a few quilts to covet and admire.” Stewart isn’t exaggerating.

The American Folk Art Museum’s collection will give you an entirely new appreciation for the medium. Placing quilts on museum walls as powerful works of abstract art is only a recent phenomenon, after all. In the book’s introduction, Stacy C. Hollander credits the American bicentennial celebrations in 1976 along with two groundbreaking exhibitions with helping the American public embrace what was once a familiar and celebrated medium.

The elevation of quilts to the plane of fine art also pushed the contributions of American women to the visual arts to the forefront. “Quilts, physically and visually monumental testaments to the ongoing creativity and participation of women in American life, became emblematic of the silent majority: vital and beautiful, powerful and skilled, individual and diverse—and hidden in plain sight,” Hollander says.

“Textiles were among the most valued family possessions until far into the nineteenth century,” explains guest curator and author Elizabeth V. Warren. “The American quiltmaking tradition draws from many sources, but it was first practiced by English immigrants to New England, who used heavy wools to make warm bedcovers.” Skills and patterns expanded south and west, constantly changing to reflect local cultures and new technologies—an interesting visual evolution when shown together.

It becomes readily apparent when viewing quilts chronologically that the medium morphed from objects of necessity to wall hangings expressly intended to reflect the creativity of the makers. Contemporary quilts in particular often transcend time and place, Warren explains, by using the historical concept as a framework to make social and political statements.

“It’s important to consider each textile in the context of the time and place it was made,” Warren says.

The lavishly illustrated, full-color volume documents the 200 most important examples from the American Folk Art Museum’s permanent collection (which numbers more than 500 works in all), paired with detail shots of particularly interesting sections of the quilts, and information about the artists and their origins. The collection is particularly strong in Amish quilts, whitework, Victorian show quilts, Double Wedding Ring quilts and 20th-century Revival quilts, Hollander notes.

Divided into 11 sections, the book introduces quilts in themes, including whole-cloth, pieced, Amish, African American and contemporary quilts. It’s at this point that you’ll have more than a little difficulty narrowing down a particular favorite. The book’s layout and design allows you to immerse yourself in the details of each quilt—right down to the stitching.

Each section is preceded by a brief overview of the style, including histories and timelines to explain why certain materials were chosen, or how it evolved with the introduction of modern day technologies and dyes.

“Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum” was originally published as a companion piece to a 12-month series of exhibitions and special events at the American Museum of Folk Art’s location on West 53rd Street in New York. With the closing of that location earlier this summer, however, some of the quilts from have been transferred uptown to the museum’s original Lincoln Square location, where they can be seen through Sept. 25 in “Superstars: Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum.”

“Superstars: Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum,” is on view at 2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Ave. at 66th Street. The exhibit is scheduled to remain up through Sept. 25, although it may run longer. To learn more, check out the museum’s website at For more information about the book, go to

Style Spotlight: Do I Hear $500,000 for This “Model”?

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

Norman Rockwell gifted the original “The Little Model” to the great-grandmother of the current owner. Credit: Jonathan B. Smith/Courtesy of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

An oil painting by the legendary Norman Rockwell, titled “The Little Model,” was estimated to be worth $500,000 by an appraiser during the Eugene, Ore., taping of the popular PBS television series Antiques Roadshow. The current owner of the painting explained that the piece had been in his family for at least 90 years, after it was given to his great-grandmother by the artist himself.

“We couldn’t be more excited about such an extraordinary, rare treasure and we look forward to sharing it with America,” said Marsha Bemko, the show’s executive producer.

Rockwell, who depicted American life and culture in the 20th century—mostly on the covers he illustrated for The Saturday Evening Post—painted the picture of a young girl and a dog for a 1919 cover of Collier’s Weekly. Currently on view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, the painting playfully depicts the girl posing in front of a fashion poster.

The $500,000 price tag made the painting the third most valuable item ever to be appraised in the 15-year history of the show.

Style Spotlight: Reprinted, With Love

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

Oprah Winfrey’s last network television show on May 25 touched a lot of people, but a group of four students at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., found a way to send the star an artful farewell. The art students produced 25 limited-edition prints—a reference to the number of years Oprah was on the air—titled, “Oprah We Love You.”

The original artwork was by created by artists Faith Ringgold, best known for her painted story quilts, and Grace Matthews. Based on art of the Kuba people of Congo, the intricate, geometric print is surrounded by a note to the television legend. The students and their teacher, Curlee Holton, Roth Professor of Art and director of the Experimental Printmaking Institute, worked with Ringgold and Matthews to produce the prints. A favorite of Winfrey’s, Ringgold has been a guest on her show and presented the poster at the final taping.

The remaining prints were to be donated to organizations that raise money for women and children in crisis.

Arts Travel: Art Banners Flutter on the Boulevard

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

People who travel up Confederation Boulevard in Ottawa will find artistic representations of Canada fluttering alongside. Thirteen festive banners, one for each of the country’s 10 provinces and three territories and each celebrating the work of a local artist, line the route.

The National Capital Commission began the banner program in Ottawa in 1992, to commemorate the country’s 125th birthday. Every year since, the banners have flown along the official ceremonial route in the capital during the summer months. Most recently, the banners have commemorated the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and the Canadian Navy centennial. This year, in collaboration with the Canada Council Art Bank, each banner showcases the work of a different Canadian artist, designed to evoke the scenery and sense of place of the each geographic region.

For more information about Ottawa and its celebrations, go to

Arts Travel: Landmark Status for Olson House

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

The Olson House in Cushing, Maine, is now a National Landmark. Credit: David Troup/Courtesy of the Farnsworth Art Museum

If you stand at a window of the Olson farmhouse, you can see the hillside where a young Christina Olson, stricken with polio and unable to walk, crouched in the field as she crawled toward the house. Now the farmhouse, which artist Andrew Wyeth put in the background of his iconic 1948 painting, “Christina’s World,” is officially a National Historic Landmark.

The painting, one of the most recognized of the 20th century, is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But you can visit the farmhouse in Cushing, Maine, owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum in nearby Rockland, and recognize in the house and the surrounding countryside many of the elements that Wyeth put into his work. The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded the building landmark status this summer.

Wyeth summered in Maine for 30 years and befriended Christina and her younger brother Alvaro, who were subjects of his paintings from 1940 to 1968.

The Farnsworth Art Museum has mounted an exhibition of 50 watercolors and drawings titled “Wyeth, Christina’s World and the Olson House,” on view through Oct. 30. Most of the collection is owned by the Marunuma Art Park in Asaka, Japan, and have rarely been seen in the United States.

Arts Reader

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

Published on the 30th anniversary of the Lilliane and David M. Stewart Collection, The Century of Modern Design (Flammarion, $49.95), edited by David A. Hanks, contains an international array of iconic furniture, ceramics, textiles, graphic art, jewelry and objects of daily life—as well as unique masterpieces—from the 1930’s to the present. The text chronicles how this widely admired collection developed with a focused mission, guided by the discerning advice of an international roster of authorities in the field. Intended as a teaching tool, the volume is also directed to the general public, incorporating narrative introductions to each decade and 500 color and black-and-white illustrations.

Couldn’t make it to the fifth exposition of the Renwick Gallery’s celebrated craft invitational series this year? You can still see the work of the four extraordinary selected artists—fourth-generation silversmith Ubaldo Vitali; neurosurgeon-turned-porcelain artist Cliff Lee; innovative furniture maker Matthias Pliessnig; and stained glass artist Judith Schaechter—in History in the Making: Renwick Craft Invitational 2011 (Scala Publishers, $24.95). Authored by exhibition curator Nicholas R. Bell, Ulysses Dietz and Andrew Wagner, the illustrated volume explores the roots of contemporary American craft and decorative arts, and includes biographies of each artist.

Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore (Yale University Press, $20), by Karen Levitov, celebrates two visionary American collectors who believed art could indeed transform everyday life. Released in connection with the exhibition on view at the Jewish Museum in New York through Sept. 25, the illustrated volume gathers 47 art works from the internationally renowned collection including paintings, sculpture and works on paper by Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Gauguin, van Gogh and others. Levitov also recounts the story of the Cone sisters, and discusses what distinguished their connoisseurship from their contemporaries.

For more than three decades, the biennial Quilt National exhibit at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, has showcased the best and most exciting contemporary quilts being created around the world. Published to accompany the world-class 17th biennial international juried show, Quilt National 2011: The Best of Contemporary Quilts (Lark Crafts, $27.95) presents spectacular photography of the 2011 winners, accompanied by the artists’ descriptions of their pieces and reflections about their work These extraordinary textile designs reflect the development and growth of the medium, and suggest where it may be heading tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Hooray for America’s Art Museums!

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

The National Academy in New York will have a retrospective of Will Barnet’s work during “Will Barnet at 100,” opening Sept. 16; his piece “OId Man’s Afternoon” is seen here.

Despite incessant wrangling on Capitol Hill over budgets, the debt ceiling and everything else; despite disappointing job numbers, consumer spending and housing starts; despite a roller coaster stock market and generalized anxiety over how to interpret our current economy, America’s museums (God love them!) are still rolling out new wings, renovated spaces, even whole new venues for the enjoyment of arts enthusiasts everywhere.

In New England, it’s the spacious Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In New York, it’s the grand reopening of the National Academy Museum on Manhattan’s Museum Mile, as well as a musical chairs remix of building spaces for MOMA, the American Folk Art Museum, the Whitney and the Met.

Cranbrook Art Museum, in suburban Detroit, reopens this fall following extensive renovations that allow for display of its complete fine art and design collections. A stunning new 34,000-square-foot home for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is under way in Ohio, while on the west coast, SFMOMA has started work on the $480 million expansion of its current site.

Better yet, a whole new museum is rising in Bentonville, Ark., thanks to philanthropist Alice Walton, who has made it her mission (and is footing a very big chunk of the bill) to bring high art to her home state.

And that’s just a small taste of what you can anticipate coming this fall. To read the full lineup, click here for AmericanStyle’s Fall Arts Preview. Remember, too, to support the museums that are supporting you.

Parting Shot: Do You See What I See?

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

If you happen to be walking down Main Street in Los Gatos, Calif., and come to a building with a gaping hole in it, don’t panic. It is the work of trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, titled “Siete Punto Uno” (7.1). Originally commissioned by the city as a public art piece, it took on a whole new meaning after the 7.1 scale earthquake that rocked the area in 1989. “The Loma Prieta earthquake certainly inspired a different direction and concept for the piece,” said Pugh. The finished work illustrates a wall crumbling to reveal a sacrificial altar block with two Mayan jaguar gods (thought to be the propitiators of earthquakes) morphed with the images of the two cats of Los Gatos. A “woman” peers around the hole left in the wall.

Web Exclusive: Click the thumbnails below to see a before and after of Pugh’s most recent work, “Mana Nalu” in Honolulu, Hawaii.

''Mana Nalu''
''Mana Nalu''
Mana Nalu

The Best Is Yet to Come: Exhibitions Calendar

September 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | 1 COMMENT

Andy Warhol’s screenprint on crumpled Mylar “Abstract Sculpture” is part of “Warhol: Headlines” at the National Gallery of Art.

From work by world-renowned contemporary artists to ancient mummies, from craft innovators to folk art treasures, the fall arts season ushers in compelling exhibitions at museums all across the country. Here is a sampling of our favorites:

• The Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte, N.C., brings together more than 100 works spanning the 50-year career of collagist Romare Bearden, widely regarded as one of America’s most pre-eminent African-American artists, in “Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections,” now through Jan. 8, 2012. The show focuses on how the American South served as his continual source of inspiration.

• The first major museum retrospective of Willem de Kooning, considered one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century, is coming to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Spanning nearly seven decades, the exhibition brings together more than 200 works—including paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints—to occupy the museum’s entire sixth-floor. On view Sept. 18-Jan. 9, “de Kooning: A Retrospective” is the first in-depth presentation of his lifetime body of work.

• The Museum of Arts and Design in New York provides a unique look at some of the more well-known names in art through an unexpected medium in “Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler.” More than 200 works of art jewelry will be featured—many created for lovers, family members or friends—that convey surprising tenderness and whimsy. Running Sept. 20-Jan. 8, the wearable sculptures will be presented in three groupings, with sections devoted to the human figure, nature, Pop subjects, words and geometry.

• No stranger to making headlines himself, Andy Warhol’s fascination with the tabloid media could be seen in many of his paintings, installations, photographs and sculpture. From Sept. 25-Jan. 2, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., presents the first exhibition of more than 80 works that focus exclusively on this obsession in “Warhol: Headlines.”

• Is there something in California’s air that generates creativity? The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles showcases the innovative and artistic period that took place in the state after the World War II in “Golden State of Craft: California 1960-1985.” On view Sept. 25-Jan. 8, it pays tribute to innovators in the craft field with more than 70 exceptional works in every medium by 65 of the most influential artists of that time.

• Explore the history of the decorative arts in America’s most famous residence in “Something of Splendor: Decorative Arts from the White House,” Oct. 1-May 6 at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Visitors can view 93 never-before-seen objects from the permanent collection of the White House, including furniture, ceramics, metals, glass and textiles.

• The Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin celebrates the dynamic medium of polymer Oct. 21-Feb. 5 in “Terra Nova: Polymer Art at the Crossroads.” Expect to see works by polymer pioneers in jewelry, sculptural objects and even furniture that emphasize the ongoing development of this expressive medium, as well as its future potential.

• From Oct. 27-Feb. 5, discover a significant collection of Shaker objects in an exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. “Gather Up the Fragments: The Andrews Shaker Collection” tells the story of the first and most avid collectors of Shaker art, Edward Deming Andrews and his wife Faith, through more than 200 objects, including furniture, visual art, tools, textiles and small craft.

• Surround yourself with caballeros and charros in “Folk Treasures of Mexico: The Nelson A, Rockefeller Collection at the San Antonio Museum of Art” from Oct. 29-Feb. 19 at the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington. Featuring 80 important works of Mexican folk art in all mediums, collected by Nelson A. Rockefeller between 1933-1978, the exhibition includes works created for religious rituals, recreation and daily life.

• Celebrate two pioneers of the American Studio Glass Movement Nov. 17-Jan. 6, 2013 in “Founders of American Studio Glass” at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Split into two concurrent exhibitions, the shows honor innovators Harvey K. Littleton and Dominick Labino, who pushed the envelope with their groundbreaking glass vessels and sculptures. See the evolution of Littleton’s work from the 1960s to the ‘90s and go through the archives of Labino’s letters, drawings, photographs and patents.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond draws from the world-famous Egyptian collections of the British Museum in London in “Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb,” running Nov. 19-March 11. Exploring the secrets of the mummy and the ritual of death, it will feature more than 100 artifacts, ranging from elaborate gold masks and jewelry to massive sarcophagi.

Where the Fairs Are: Show Calendar

August 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | 2 COMMENTS

“Solidback Spider,” artist Joe Graham’s contemporary riff on traditional Windsor chairs, will be on view at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough, Mass.

There’s no better place to get up close and personal with working artists than a retail show, and fall is prime season for some of the biggest and best in the world of contemporary craft. Must-sees? Check out this list:

• Start your engines, craft connoisseurs. Get ready to snap up everything for the carefully designed home at Milwaukee’s 2011 Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum. The show features more than 50 exhibitors, most showing larger works ranging from one-of-a-kind items to whole suites.

• Buying jewelry can be fun, especially if you buy it from the artist who created it. New York’s Museum of Arts and Design jewelry show, LOOT 2011: MAD About Jewelry, Oct. 11-14, presents 50 emerging and established artists showing everything from stainless steel bracelets to traditional designs.

• Want to join a conversation between the energy community and the artists who use that energy? It’s part of the Texas Contemporary art fair Oct. 20-23 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. In addition to bringing together art works from more than four dozen international art dealers, artMRKT Productions will host talks and demonstrations to spark ideas about energy and sustainability in the “energy capital” of the country.

• With two months to shop, the 43rd annual Celebration of American Crafts gives you plenty of time to study the work of more than 300 artists in glass, ceramics, jewelry, wearable art and more. Artists are carefully selected to represent each medium. The exhibition, Oct. 29-Dec. 24, benefits the Creative Arts Workshop, a nonprofit regional art school based in New Haven, Conn. The show is held in the school’s Hilles Gallery.

• Of two minds when it comes to art: contemporary or wild? Two shows with two different approaches offer objects for both sides of your personality when the annual International Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair (SOFA) joins The Intuit Show of Folk & Outsider Art Nov. 4-6 at Chicago’s Navy Pier. SOFA CHICAGO will feature more than 80 galleries and dealers from 10 countries, presenting cutting-edge and traditional art, while the Intuit show offers the unconventional in folk, self-taught and visionary art.

• More than 190 craft artists, including this year’s international Scottish contingent, will show and sell their art at the 35th annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show Nov. 10-13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The show features glass, baskets, metal, paper, ceramics, jewelry, wood, and decorative and wearable fiber.

• The annual American Craft Show NYC teams up with the Contemporary Art Fair NYC Nov. 18-20 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, offering works for both your home and yourself. The craft show will feature furniture, ceramics, glass, jewelry, fashion and textiles, while the art fair will feature paintings, photography and sculpture.

• Treats for the eye as well as the ear will greet visitors to the Paradise City Arts Festival Nov. 18-20 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, Mass. More than 170 artists from 30 states will show home furnishings, wearable art, jewelry and paintings at the show, while musicians near the Sculpture Cafe serenade visitors with jazz, swing and cabaret music. In a section called “Picturing the Music,” artists will show works inspired by music.

• Do all your holiday shopping in one great spree at the 11th annual One of a Kind Show and Sale Dec. 1- 4 at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The show features more than 600 juried artists, offering handmade accessories, ceramics, fashion, gourmet, holiday, kids’ stuff and paintings, ranging from simple to extravagant.

• A chance to meet the nearly 200 artists offering fashions, silver, ceramics, paper, wood, glass, jewelry and wearable art is a big draw at the 24th annual Washington Craft Show Dec. 2-4 at the Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C. All items are handcrafted and chosen to show off some aspect of the American spirit.

• One-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces are the hallmark of the 4th annual CRAFTBOSTON Holiday show Dec. 9-11 at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts. The show features nearly 100 artists showcasing furniture, glass, ceramic, basketry, metal, paper and wood objects, in a wide range of prices.

• The 13th annual New York Ceramics Fair has a new venue, the Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Consulate on East 73rd Street, as well as a revitalized exhibitor list, with more U.S.-based and international galleries. “All things fired” will be offered Jan. 18-22, 2012: porcelain, glass, pottery and enamels.

• An international list of more than 80 artists and galleries will be exhibiting at the 14th annual Art Palm Beach show Jan. 20-23 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. In addition to art, photography and design, the show offers a series of lectures and panel discussions on subjects ranging from “A Conversation on Aboriginal Art,” to “Art Now: The Convergence of Photography, Video and Contemporary Art.“

Best in Show – Top Art Fairs in USA

August 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | 2 COMMENTS

The Ceramics Annual of America features contemporary ceramic artists, including Wesley Anderegg, creator of “Two Headed Man”.

Shows, shows, shows— with so many of them all over the country, it’s difficult to chose to which ones to attend. Here are some of our favorites:

St. James Court Art Show
Louisville, Ky.
Sept. 30-Oct. 2

The Ceramics Annual of America
San Francisco, Calif.
Oct. 7-9

Bayou City Art Festival, Downtown
Houston, Texas
Oct. 8-9

Sedona Arts Festival
Sedona, Ariz.
Oct. 8-9

Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
Asheville, N.C.
Oct. 20-23

Best of the Northwest
Seattle, Wash.
Nov. 18-20

Westport, Conn.
Nov. 19-20

Piedmont Craftsmen’s Fair
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Nov. 19-20

Art Basel Miami Beach
Miami Beach, Fla.
Dec. 1-4

Sarasota American Craft Show
Sarasota, Fla.
Dec. 2-4

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