Monday, September 27, 2021

Life & Style

From a Long Tradition, Maximum Creativity


Roses of Elizabeth Park by Judy Ross

Roses of Elizabeth Park by Judy Ross)


Rhythm #1: Dancing by Clara Nartey

Rhythm #1: Dancing by Clara Nartey)


Musical Chairs by Phyllis Small

Musical Chairs by Phyllis Small)


Colliding Thoughts by Karen Loprete

Colliding Thoughts by Karen Loprete)


Snapshot by Rita Hannafin

Snapshot by Rita Hannafin)

Traditional quilts are usually made of three layers, including a cover, then the padding, then the backing.

But when the craft evolves into art, it doesn’t always have to be exactly that, says Diane Wright of Guilford, a studio art quilter who is one of the curators of the upcoming quilt show at the Guilford Art Gallery, Local Color.

“Traditionally it’s three layers of textiles held together with a stitch. That is the most basic thing. But there can be a lot of variety by any measure. What art quilting has evolved to is referencing that. It doesn’t always have to be that. So you may have paper as one of the layers. It can be stitched in any way. It can reference stitching, using a pen and making it look like stitching. Just referencing the traditional allows for maximum creativity.”

The upcoming juried show will feature a variety of fiber art created by members of the Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) in the Connecticut region. It will be on view at the Guilford Art Center, 411 Church Street, Guilford, from Friday, Feb. 5 to Sunday, Feb. 21. The opening reception is Friday, Feb. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m.; it is free and open to the public.

The theme of the show is Local Color: Connecticut Stories and the works of art are informed by personal stories, Connecticut history, text messages, literary references, and more.

“We were interested in the artists’ narrative about the work,” said Wright, who worked on the show with co-curator Kate Theme and juror Carol Padberg of Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. “That’s not usually what happens with these shows. We usually don’t know the story behind it, but in this case we will. It could be a personal story, or it could be about a place, it could be anything they wanted to make, as long as they made narratives.”

The connection between quilting and storytelling is a natural one, and one that extends back through history, and across continents, Wright says.

“It generally was a women’s craft and usually when quilting happens in groups, there was a narrative being developed. Then there are functional quilts, which is a narrative, really, about the person getting the quilt. If you use somebody’s dress or clothes, there is an overlay of connectedness.”

Wright noted that at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., SAQA, with help from the Diaspora Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, will host a juried and invitational exhibition focused on stories about migration, migrants, and refugees.

Other examples of the connection between textiles and storytelling include Hmong story cloths, African Kente cloths, and Latin American arpilleras, quilts that were made in Chile in the ’70s and ’80s to protest the totalitarian military regime there. The William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut has a collection of about 50 arpilleras from the Vicaria de la Solidaridad, Santiago, Chile.

“There is an international quality and a timelessness about this kind of work. These are stories, and they are mostly women’s stories,” Wright said.

One example from the upcoming show is a quilt that represents 24 places the artist has lived over the course of her lifetime, and the importance of Connecticut as her home. Wright noted that since the state’s motto is Qui Transtulit Sustinet, or in English, “He who transplanted sustains,” the quilt is particularly appropriate for Connecticut.

Participating artists include Debbie Bento, Christina Blais, Diane Cadrain, Kelly Caldwell, Alice Chittenden, Carol Eaton, Ann Marie Gontarz, Rita Daley Hannafin, Yvette Howard, Angelina Kendra, Paula Klingerman, Aurelle Locke, Karen Loprete, Barbara McKie, Clara Nartey, Margaret Phillips, Judy Ross, Phyllis Small, Catherine Whall Smith, Kate Themel, Anna Tufankjian, and Diana Wright. A catalogue featuring images of all the pieces in the exhibition will be available for purchase at the gallery. The exhibit will travel to the Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich in summer 2017.

Guilford Art Center gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes art quilting through education, exhibitions, professional development, documentation, and publications. For more information, visit For more information about the exhibit, call the Guilford Art Center at 203-453-5947 or visit

Pem McNerney is the Living Editor for Zip06. Email Pem at

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