Tuesday, December 7, 2010
ART QUILTS by MARIA SHELL
Artist's Statement and Biography
In the fall of 2000, I took my first quilt class at the Calico Whale my local quilt shop. During the stitching of that quilt, I became someone else. I had been a sewer since I was four years old. I had a hand-made Barbie clothing business at the age of ten, and I worked in the costume shop in college. But I never saw my love of sewing as being artful. To think I could use my technical skills to create powerful visual objects was a fierce realization.
At first, I resisted this transformation. I had spent years earning an MFA with the hopes of being a writer not a quilter. But writing felt like such a chore, and quilting felt like such a joy, I did what we all hope to do: I followed my bliss. For the next six years, I immersed myself in the world of art quilting as best I could from the remote Alaskan town of Valdez. I studied and I stitched alone.
I love piecing and manipulating fabric to create optical illusions. The endless optical opportunities offered by old quilt blocks such as the Wheel of Mystery, the Pinwheel, and the Spider Web are a constant source of inspiration for me. I consider my work a blending of pop art, psychedelic op-art, and the traditional patchwork block. On the surface these art forms might seem like strange mates, but for me, they are a fertile union.
While a great deal of my work focuses on pattern and repetition, I am also interested in making spontaneous, just start stitching, quilts that grow organically from the work of my hands. Nothing is more exciting to me then to freely manipulate fabric into wild, bold expressions of color.
For the last four years, I have been working on a long arm quilting machine. Thread play and creative stitch work are major elements of my art. I am particularly interested in how thread can be used to optically transform fabric. The viewer may think the fabric is made of three colors, when in reality it is two colors plus thread. Most recently, I have become interested in using the quilt block as a method of communication. I want my quilts to talk using pattern and block. It's the next evolution. I want to "write" with my quilts.