Not Grandma’s Quilt: Frank Helps SAQA Host Art Quilt Exhibit’s Premiere at GAC
“It’s not grandma’s quilt, by a long shot,” says Gina Frank.
If anyone knows something about the glorious views of this state, as seen from an art quilter’s eye, it’s Gina, volunteer organizer of the premiere exhibit of A Connecticut Welcome, a juried art quilt show coming to Guilford Art Center (GAC) from Feb. 4 to March 5.
Free and open to the public, the exhibit features creations ranging from that of internationally known fiber artists to first-time exhibitors, dreamed up, designed, and built by 22 selected members of the Connecticut region of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). For the uninitiated, worldwide, SAQA has more than 4,000 members, including artists, curators, collectors, and art professionals. A total of 122 of them participate as members of SAQA Connecticut Region; Gina is one of them.
So, what’s a Connecticut welcome? For the artists with works that will be on view in this exhibit, it’s April’s cherry blossoms done in silky pastels; a seagull sharing a pieced-together, sky-high summer view of the shoreline; or Scrabble squares intertwining Connecticut-centric words including Charter Oak, Yale, and Hummel. It’s the pale blues and grays of winter grasses, the colors and patterns revealed at low tide, and even the exuberant face of a colorful corgi leaping up to say hello. Adding to the intricacy of each design is the artist’s combinations of cloth and fiber, which can mimic mosaics, photographs, and paintings as well as working wonders with a plethora of patterns. And that’s just a snippet.
“They will blow you away,” says Gina of the diverse art quilts that will be on display. “Some of the pieces—I don’t know how they do it. They’ve got their own techniques.”
As a member of Sisters in Cloth Quilting Arts, a shoreline group composed of about a dozen SAQA members, and someone who’s very familiar with the mission and opportunities provided by GAC, Gina knew she could help smooth the way for this exhibit’s statewide premiere in Guilford.
Gina’s husband, Guilford native David Frank, is a well-known Connecticut potter and long-time ceramic instructor at GAC. The couple lives in Guilford and, in addition to Gina often helping David with his shows, she even picked up some new ideas from a GAC fiber arts class David gifted to her a while back. Their combined creative talents have also helped Gina to come up with some very unique pieces.
“I’ve actually done collaborations with my husband, where he will draw a pot and I will make a piece from that,” Gina explains.
The First Squares
A Michigan native, Gina started quilting as a kid with her 4-H Club, making traditional quilts. As an adult, she picked the art form up again while at graduate school in New Hampshire, thanks to another staff member who had a Singer sewing machine. She’s been at it ever since.
If you haven’t guessed, a sewing machine to an art quilter is like a paint brush to an artist. In fact, one of the art quilts in the exhibit, “Grandmother,” pays tribute to a classic, very old-school Singer machine.
With so many creative and talented SAQA Connecticut Region artists, selecting the 35 quilts featured in this exhibit was no small feat. All of the pieces were juried into the exhibit by Anna Patalano, a painter with degrees from Yale University School of Art and Tyler School of Art. Gina happily notes that Guilford residents/Sisters in Cloth/SAQA Connecticut Region members Diane Wright and Gail Kotowski both have art pieces that have been juried into the exhibit.
In a few more days, Gina and four SAQA regional committee members from other towns across the state (Lynne Allen, Margaret Phillips, Christina Blais, and Kate Themel) will have the enviable job of hanging the incredible visual art comprising A Connecticut Welcome as they set up the exhibit in the spacious GAC gallery at 411 Church Street.
Gina anticipates unpacking each piece will be something like opening the very best possible presents.
“We’ve seen the pictures, but we haven’t seen the pieces,” she says, adding that Themel, a Cheshire resident, has three pieces juried into the show—including that colorful corgi.
“Her pieces are amazing to see,” says Gina.
For those who may come away from this exhibit feeling inspired and would like to show their support for non-profit GAC, the regional SAQA group has come up with a special opportunity tied to the Guilford premiere. For a nominal fee, the group is offering kits of two gift cards with cloth pieces, which will be on sale at the exhibit. The group will then host a Zoom-based “how to” workshop on creating the finished fiber art cards (on a date following the close of the GAC exhibit in March). Money raised from sales of the kits will be donated to GAC.
“It’s sort of playing with fiber, but in a very basic way,” says Gina of this creative contribution. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen cloth on cards before. If you have a sewing machine, you can actually sew on them, or you can iron it on. You can do all kinds of things, as I’ve learned from being with these groups.”
Following the dates of A Connecticut Welcome at GAC, the exhibit will travel the state to be on view at the Greenwich Art Society in May and the Windham Textile & History Museum in August.
“I feel lucky that it’s right here,” says Gina of the exhibit’s premiere at GAC. “It’s easy to get to, and it starts here.”
A photo catalog for the exhibit is available now through Amazon.com—look for LOCAL COLOR: A Connecticut Welcome4. For more information, contact Guilford Art Center at email@example.com or call 203-453-5947. To learn more about SAQA, visit www.saqa.com.