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Getting 'Warmer' with 'Modern Quilts' at Grove Gallery

Feb. 21, 2017
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There are many stories in many families about textiles, things that maybe have to do with the making of quilts or clothes, memories of things that are handcrafted and handed down. Although this may have a whiff of nostalgia and memories of times past, contemporary artists are using traditional techniques and objects to make subtly dynamic works in “Warmer: Modern Quilts and Weaving from the Upper Midwest,” currently on view at the Grove Gallery. The exhibition brings together Mandi Smethells, Amanda Tollefson, Jenna Valoe and Kelly Wanderer, all of whom approach their work with rooted connections.

Taking materials that would otherwise languish on the racks of resale stores or end up in a landfill, old clothing becomes the foundational material for Smethells and Tollefson. For Smethells, one of the key components in her wall hangings are diminutive pieces cut out from old leather jackets. They form layer upon layer of broad fringe and are augmented by other materials like wool or acrylic to create three-dimensional pieces with sculptural, soft texture (bonus: You can touch the art). Tollefson’s large quilt, The Universe, uses shades of black for a background with a stratum of colorful geometric shapes bobbing through the darkness. It’s chaotic but balanced, vibrant but cool. 

For Valoe and Wanderer, craft and textiles also have to do with the transmission of knowledge. Valoe, described as a self-taught textile artist “who attributes her innate fiber skills to the abundance of makers in her ancestry,” uses quilt forms with meticulous hand stitching. While her pieces are minimalist, composed simply of two or very few colors, the nuances of the stitches create quiet variations. In Rain, two soft hues of orange are split into horizontal bands, but it is only from afar that the pattern of the thread delineates two almost invisible triangles. Wanderer’s weavings and pillows should also be looked at for their detail, noting her complex designs of vibrant color that combine different materials in cotton and acrylic.

Through March 18 at Grove Gallery, 832 S. Fifth St. for more information, visit GalleryGrove.com.

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