Sew cool

The Woodson Art Museum’s Wild Fabrications blows away expectations


You’re probably thinking that an art exhibition of quilts sounds dull. Think again. The works in the Woodson Art Museum’s current exhibit Wild Fabrications are not traditional grandma quilts made from fabric store patterns. These quilts are real works of art—surprising, delightful, intricate, and super cool.

Organized by the Studio Art Quilt Associates in Connecticut, Wild Fabrications features three dozen vibrant art quilts from national and international artists. These pieces are created more for their beauty than usefulness. Adorned with beads, string and even trash in addition to fabric, these quilts would not be comfortable to cuddle up with.

While the quilts range in size from 15-inch squares to throw blanket size, and vary in techniques and materials, they all feature representations of animals—common and endangered, real and inventive, realistic and fantastical.

Some showcase lifelike interpretations of animals both in color palettes and realism. “What Happens in the Swamp?” by Christine Holden shows a realistic egret sitting atop an alligator with an earthy color palette. The silverback gorilla in “No Worries” by Jennifer Day almost looks like a photograph.

Other artists portrayed animals with more whimsy, imagination and color. “In Her Dreams She Dances” by Sonai Grasvik shows a large-scale, glittery praying mantis with a boldly colored border. “Beauty of the Beasts,” by Barbara Yates Beasley, displays a beautiful bright blue gorilla against a contrasting red and purple patterned backdrop. “Boogie Nights” by Diana Ferguson features two large birds watching people dance under a starry sky, created out of many layers of patterned, colorful pieces of fabric.

Wild Fabrications drives home the concept that art can be created with all kinds of raw materials. Here, textiles are what oils, acrylics and watercolor are to a painter.

In the quilt “Polka Dodo,” Susan Carlson exclusively used polka-dotted fabrics to create a stunning and colorful dodo bird. The way the polka dots vary in size and color add depth to the funky quilt. Using an array of pattered textiles and materials, “Two Creatures” is both colorful and abstract, depicting two creatures on top of the other, along with snails, flowers, and butterflies in a fun and whimsical scene—a bright and cheerful dreamy imagery.

Artists altered the fabrics they used in these quilts, cutting them into thoughtful shapes, printing on them with an inkjet printer, painting and hand-dyeing them. Not all artists stuck with commercial cotton fabrics. You’ll see suede, felt, cheesecloth, tulle and chiffon. “Grieving Animal” by Chiaki Dosho is made from an antique Japanese kimono. For “Cat and Mouse Game,” Martha Ressler used junk food boxes, a basket, used lottery tickets and other found objects to create a quilt of unconventional materials.

All sorts of amusing details embellish many of the quilts—buttons, glass beads, yarn, bottle caps, zippers and sequins. Some artists let their imagination run wild in their choice of materials. “Murder of the Crows” features dryer lint; “Ringtailed Pussycat” was created with 700 rubber bands; and “Humans Taste Like Chicken” (yes, even the titles are delightful) incorporates bullets, toy cars and pens.

Sewing of course is crucial to the process, and even these details will astound you in how it often adds an essential aspect to the piece. Stitching techniques form the illusion of feathers, fur, grass, scales, water and more. In Judith Peterson’s “How Funky is Your Chicken,” the background stitch creates the appearance of a chicken wire fence.

Wild Fabrications is certain to open your eyes to the dynamic art form of quilting and inspire you to celebrate the world of animals. It will leave you wanting to see more and wondering what other crazy, fantastic images artist can create on quilt.

Wild Fabricrations is on view thru Feb. 25, in conjunction with Explorations of Wood, which features 70+ works of art that celebrate the beauty and versatility of wood. Museum hours Tues.-Fri. 9 am-4 pm; Sat.-Sun. noon-5 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays. 715-845-7010,