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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World

A couple of weeks ago, I got a surprise in the mail.  Lark Books had sent me a copy of Art Quilt Portfolio:  The Natural World:  Profiles of Major Artists Galleries of Inspiring Works by Martha Sielman to review.  (ISBN 978-1-60059-928-6).  192 pages.

Wow.  Just one word...WOW!  Martha did a wonderful job on this book.  The book is divided into 9 sections by topic:  Flowers, Birds, Water, Animals, Leaves, insects, Flowers II, Trees and Textures.  Each section begins with an in-depth introduction to two or three artists, then goes into a gallery where many artists works are shown, just as if it were in an exhibition with labels identifying artist, title, date, size and method.  The book is well indexed with the table of contents guiding you to the featured artists and the subject matter, as well as a featured artist index and gallery artist index at the back of the book.

Martha's introduction is a must read as it gives you insights into the book as well as includes some information on the artists not repeated elsewhere.

Each of the featured artists described their method of work and were asked questions.  Everyone was asked "Why fiber?"  and the responses were quite telling.  Asking ourselves this, I think is an important activity.  Why DO we work in fiber or textiles? Why don't we stop at taking a photograph, rendering a drawing, or whatever.   Reading  each of the featured artist's answers was illuminating as well as one which pleased me as I think it is important for us as artists to consider as well as enabling the general public to understand where fiber/textile artists are coming from.  In addition, Martha queried them on technique when she thought that that was important.

When I first came to Ohio from Connecticut in 2005, I hadn't been exposed to large doses of textile art.  I had been to a few shows which had some art quilts in them (The Odyssey show) and the Shoreline Quilter's Guild and Clamshell Quilters (one of which Barbara Barrick McKie belonged to), but I hadn't been exposed to work by many art quilters.   Moving to Ohio opened my eyes.  I will never forget visiting the Fitton Art Center in Hamilton, Ohio and seeing Katherine K. Allen's work.  I was enamored.  I haven't been able to see a lot of her pieces, but she was one of the featured artists, along with Dominie Nash....and to top it off, many artists whose work I had seen either at the Aullwood Nature Center show in Englewood, Ohio or online with the groups I belong to--such as Melani Kane Brewer, Ginny Eckley and Nancy Cook are also among the featured artists.

Martha once again laid out the book as if it were an exhibition.  The images flow nicely with each other and leave you inspired and wanting to return again and again to look more closely at the images.   I read the book from cover to cover in a matter of three hours, and will probably re-read it.  I did laugh at myself... Nancy Erickson's "Easter Cougar" made me wonder if there had been a typographical error...I enjoy Nancy's work which bears resemblance to cave art, and I suspected that this particular piece, one of a series of "cut out" works she's been doing was named as a joke ("Easter" rather than "Eastern") as the colors were bright and included some dashes of blue, aqua as well as yellow ochre and red.  Just to make sure, I contacted Nancy and she verified that she did indeed name "Easter Cougar" that because of the colors.  Nancy did say that the image came out much darker than the actual piece is.

In addition to the featured artists and the general gallery, Martha included the Fiber Artist's Coalition (FAC) themed exhibition "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."  I hadn't heard of this group, but was interested to see how they handled the common theme.

Lark included a list of the featured artists as well as links to their websites here.

I can see myself turning to this book again and again for insight, inspiration as well as to share with other quilters and explain the world of art quilts based on nature.  Definitely, this book is a keeper.

Publishers' suggested retail price:  $24.95 US/Can $29.95.

I've just not had the time to write this review earlier....and I know that Elizabeth Barton reviewed it as well....I've assiduously avoided reading her review because I think so highly of her writing and insight that I didn't want what she had written to influence I can go and read it! You can too, right here.

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