rocket tracking


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aullwood Art Quilt Show: Ruth Powers

"Spring Encounter", Ruth Powers, 46" x 40" $3,200.
 Almost every year, Ruth Powers of Carbondale, Kansas, shares some of her spectacular work.  No surprise here, Ruth does a lot of nature related work.

I am always floored by her artwork as many of her quilts while pictorial, are pieced.  Ruth does a drawing or takes a photo (or both) and renders it into slivers of fabric which are painstakingly numbered for assembly by machine.  While I have seen quite a bit of her work in shows, books, and have looked at her classwork, particularly on Del Thomas' blog, I don't think I could ever do such a piece.

"Spring Encounter", Ruth Powers, detail
Ruth uses a lot of commercially printed fabric and batiks, although she does work with hand-dyed fabric from time to time.  She always manages to make the fabric work for her, combining shades, and textures to make the absolutely perfect image.

Here, you can see the fawn, still in his spring spots looking through an old barbed wire fence.  Ruth discharged (removed color) from the fawn's back in order to make the spots.  I'm really sorry that the first image is a bit washed in the Aullwood Nature Center can sometimes be challenging!

Ruth Powers, "Mon Grand Pere", 44.75" x 36.25" $3,000

Ruth Powers, "Mon Grand Pere," detail
The next piece is also a wonder.  I love the incredible sky.  So many times the sky in Ohio looks just like this, and I can see the Laurentians in the background.  Ruth did this piece in 2008 to commemorate her French-Canadian grandfather who farmed his land with horses, and sythed his hay.  She used over 18 different prints in order to render the grasses.  I love the play of shades and the sentiment, but there's also a lot of wonder inthe details.

Here you can see the blade of the sythe as is cuts through the grass. I should have taken another shot  showing Grand Pere's head as the shading is great there too, I see a beard and a pipe...and I love the shadow play on his shirt!  I really like this piece for the heart it shows, and I suppose my love for Canada, and history also comes into play.

Ruth Powers, "In the Bleak Midwinter," 32" x 34" $2,000

Ruth Powers, "In the "Bleak Midwinter," detail. 
My favorite, however is this one.  Ruth used some hand dyed fabric from Linda Frost for the sky in this piece, and I love the threatening sky with the sunset (or sunrise, I've seen both like this) and the bones of the trees with the shadows on the snow.

Ruth used curved seaming on this one to give the drifts just exactly the right appearance.  I also love it as I have always been taken by the appearance of shadow on snow, how it changes from lavender  to cobalt blue and sometimes grays.

I was also amazed at her brush---I couldn't quite figure out how she did it as the lines from the gray blend  right into the red color, but I didn't think she inked it.  I asked her and she said it was just a commercial batik which she worked hard to line up the areas to make it seem like it ran from one color into the other.   She outlined stitched those pieces in dark thread which also connected them.

Ruth is also a fantastic machine quilter.  Look how the choices she made in the quilting really complimented and gave depth and reality to the piece.

Of course, I think another reason I really like this piece is because I like to sing...and I used to sing a lot.  Sometimes at home, almost always in the garden, and I also sang a lot at church.

When I was in the choir at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Meriden, Connecticut, we often sang "In the Bleak Midwinter", and I can remember our wonderful soprano section really doing this well (of course I was an alto, so I just gave depth).  I also like the poetry, and share this with my niece Katie who is a Victorian Literature professor, currently doing a post doc at UNC Chapel Hill.  The lyrics were composed by Christina Rossetti, the sister of the famous artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who were both spearheads of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England.  Christina wrote the lyrics at the request of a magazine, and Gustav Holst put the piece to music.  I'd like to think that we sounded like this, but I know we didn't.

The lyrics, particularly the first part, have always sounded like home to me, and I'm sure to Ruth as well since she lives in Kansas where the snow swirls around trees and the sky glowers, just as she has represented it.

Here's the first part of the lyrics:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, 
 earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
 snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
 in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

You can see more of Ruth's work, and even buy some of her patterns (of which I admit to owning one, "Third Weekend in October," here.

As an addenda, I decided to put the entire lyrics of Rossetti's poem here.  Some of it is a little florid, but still lovely.

In the Bleak Midwinter
Christina Rossetti (1872)
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In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter Long ago. Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him Nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign: In the bleak mid-winter A stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Enough for Him, whom cherubim Worship night and day, A breastful of milk And a mangerful of hay; Enough for Him, whom angels Fall down before, The ox and ass and camel Which adore. Angels and archangels May have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim Thronged the air, But only His mother In her maiden bliss, Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss. What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.


ann said...

Oh yes, her work is WONDERFUL! I've seen the first two pieces before. However, the bottom piece is amazing. Rather like a Jo Diggs landscape. Thanks for sharing.

Judy Ferguson said...

I took a class from Ruth last year. I am not really a quilter/piecer, so I was not able to complete her pattern; but when she showed us the secret of her design process, I was able to simplify it and come up with my own designs. She is a very generous teacher.