Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nancy Crow at the Shelburne

Took in the Vermont Quilt Festival on Friday, and the next day spent a few hours at the Shelburne Museum, where Nancy Crow is having a solo show of her more recent work. Every year, the Shelburne hosts a solo show of a Big Name art quilter in its Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery. Nancy Crow, Seeking Beauty: Riffs on Repetition is on view until October 31.
Markings #1: The Known and the Unknown , 77" x 72", Nancy Crow, 2006
100% cottons hand-screened by Nancy Crow
Hand-dyed and machine-pieced by Nancy Crow
Crow is best known for her free-form piecing, not unlike that found in the Gee's Bend quilts. She is a much-respected teacher who has influenced many with her breakthrough approach. I had not realized that she has been exploring mark-making and monoprinting for the last number of years.

The art quilt pictured above is the showpiece of the exhibit. A detail is shown below. It is tricky to do justice to the colour, but it is very beautiful and easily my favourite of the works on display. The quilting echoes the lozenge shapes of the marks. It is not clear whether Crow does the quilting herself or, more likely, outsources that work.

detail, Markings #1: The Known and the Unknown
A description of the technique of monoprinting is posted at the entrance to the exhibit:
A monoprint is essentially a printed painting. Although a monoprint, the artist manually removes or adds ink to a plate which is then printed using a printing press. In the subtractive method, a metal or plastic surface is covered entirely with ink or watercolor media which is partially or wholly removed to expose areas of the picture being made. This process can be carried out using brushes, cotton swabs, sponges, fingers, etc. In the additive method, layers of pigment are applied to a clean plate in various ways. Once the picture is completed, it is run through a press with dampened rag paper to form a unique one-of-a-kind print. Before cleaning the plate it is possible to add more ink or watercolor to the ghost image remaining to create a second image over the original matrix. In this way the artist can create a series of related works.
Artist Nancy Crow has adapted this process for cloth to create her fabric monoprints. 

Detail from one of the Mono-Prints above.
The machine-quilting follows the lines of the marks.
Self-Portrait: Focus Mono-Print #24a, 21.5" x 39.75" Nancy Crow, 2012
Marked & Printed by Nancy Crow
100% cotton/ Procion MX dyes, machine-quilted
Like some other art I have seen in the last few years, Crow's works are meditations, seeking transcendence in repetition. They are more about the process and less about the product. Here is what she writes about the experience of making these works:
I am walking the walk. Totally focused. Paying attention. To bed early. Up early. 10 - 12 hour days. Dedicated computer time reduced to 30 minutes per day. No phones in the studio. All necessary preparations predicated on efficiency. Wet studio organized. Using the fewest tools to facilitate mark-making and drawing. Stacks of fabrics prepared. Corralling black thoughts. Going forward. Making mistakes. Not looking back. Learning. Loosening up. Feeling the thrill. Day after day. Keeping the routine. Short ones. Long ones. Over and over. Riffing on repetition. Seeking beauty. Believing. Self-portraits of who I am. - Nancy Crow, February 19, 2014
Crow is an artist who, over a career of 40 years, has challenged convention and pushed herself to go beyond her own limitations.

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