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New Quilt Exhibit Tells Stories through Creative Recycling

By KATE SNYDER

Community Arts Center 

Every piece of artwork has a story — the “who, what, where, why and how” of the piece and the artist who created it.

In the Community Arts Center’s summer exhibit – the 2nd Look Quilt Challenge – those stories are front and center. The exhibit features art quilts by twelve artists from throughout Kentucky. The parameters of the exhibit required all pieces to be made from at least 75% repurposed materials. The featured artists responded with quilts made from bedsheets, neckties, handkerchiefs, shirts and blouses, blue jeans, Girl Scout badges, participation ribbons from childhood extra-curricular activities – and more!

“Bed-Sheets and Bad-Shirts” by Elizabeth Luttinger

The idea for the exhibit came from Danville quilter Joni Morgan. She says many artist groups organize quilt “challenges” that require participants to all use the same set of fabrics for their quilts, combining them in different and interesting ways. “But Danville doesn’t have a quilt shop to make it easy for quilters to purchase a certain line,” says Morgan. “So I thought recycled would be a good alternative because everyone has shirts, dresses, skirts, trousers, etc to recycle. I thought it would be fun to do this ‘green’ quilt challenge.”

“If These Ties Could Talk” by Mary Beth Touchstone

For many of the quilters, the pieces in the show are deeply personal and reflect family memories, stories, and history. Cora Mossbrook of Lexington created a quilt from sports coats and shirts belonging to her father, who is recently deceased. She says the quilt was a comfort to her. “My Dad and I shared a love of birds and nature. I found a surprise bird in the scraps of another quilt and placed it on the back. I think he was helping me.”

“Our jury committee for this exhibit included not only quilters but an interior decorator and a playwright,” says Brandon Long. “We understood from the beginning that the creative process and the stories behind the submissions were every bit as important as the final, visual product.”

Mary Ann McGlothlin created her quilt as a keepsake for her daughter-in-law, Cheryl. “She grew up living in a typical New England house with two flats. She lived with her parents downstairs; her grandparents lived upstairs. Living in close proximity to her grandparents, she had a very special relationship with them. I wanted to make a keepsake for Cheryl from her grandparents’ things.” The quilt includes handkerchiefs, a dresser scarf, and tablecloths that belonged to them.

Mr Crow’s Garden by Nancy Martindale

The unique requirements of the exhibit inspired several first-time quilters to create artwork for the show. Elizabeth Luttinger of Danville says she started her quilt be creating 3D pieces using basic mathematical shapes, then found a way to connect them in a 2D frame. She says, “I made up everything as I went and I learned oh so very much!” Elizabeth’s quilt includes bedsheets from college, the shirt she wore on the first day of teaching, and curtains she made to decorate a friend’s wedding. Elizabeth says that every single fabric has a memory.

For Leah Swift of Frankfort, both the materials of her quilt and its shape were symbolic. She explains that her quilted superhero cape was created from the skirt and coveralls that she wore to protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. “This event was a call for protection of our water, to care for our Earth,” explains Leah. “I feel this challenge is the same call. I have designed a cape to save the world in!”

Mary Beth Touchstone of Danville used the exhibit as an opportunity to bring together the stories of thirty-one Danville men by weaving together and then quilting their neckties. She says, “If these ties could talk, they would tell you of children healed, pizzas served, and news reported. They’d speak of manufacturing plants and Walmart shoppers, bourbon making and energy consumption, students educated and poetry written. The ties would tell of great art – music, drama, poetry, painting – and of great sorrow and loss. When woven together they become a vibrant quilted community, rich in color and texture – kind, thoughtful, compassionate – a mosaic of the very best found in the gentlemen of Danville.”

IF YOU GO 

The 2nd Look Quilt Challenge exhibit’s opening reception will be 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday at Community Arts Center. The exhibit will be up May 31 through June 28.