Materialized: Women Who Run With Scissors

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | the neville now | sept. 2019

'Mother Earth’ by Julie Duschack. If you think that quilts are merely pieces of cloth and thread accouterments to be thrown across your bed, think again. The newest exhibit at the Neville Public Museum “Materialized” is a high-quality art-quilt exhibit for those inspired by thread, fiber, a riot of color and imagination.

Created by Women Who Run With Scissors, a group formed in the late 1990s, this group takes the traditional concept of quilting, and tilts it wildly in their favor to break all the conventional ideas that quilts merely exist to live unassuming lives hidden from the rigors of everyday life.

“These women are living out there, a bit on the edgy side, and are non-conforming by use of their scissors and thread,” says Neville Deputy Director, Kevin Cullen. “This group took their name from the old adage that obedient children never run with scissors.”

Using abstract imagery and a variety of different textiles, with emphasis on the concept of intricate layering and stitching, these women have produced stunning works of textile art.

“This exhibit is about women expressing themselves, their lives and the world around them,” says Cullen.

As this group's largest show to date, “Materialized” features more than 80 art quilts produced by 14 different artists that encompass the use of a variety of materials, creating dynamic works that are as varied and imaginative visually as the stories they tell. This collection represents the evolution of a timeline, one in which tapestries tell the tales of experience, place, and knowledge.

Some represent commentaries on our own western concepts as is the case with the piece “Identity Phishing,” which was cleverly pieced together using hundreds of actual name-brand clothing tags while a credit card dangles as a phishinglure encouraging fabric-fish (people) to bite. This piece turns ordinary stitching into contemporary art.

Adding to the dimensionality of the exhibit, many of the works spring to life with 3-dimensional elements that turn works into whimsical statements about the beauty in everyday life. “Lichen on Pine” is a work that reflects the inspiration of the outdoors while “Courtyard on the Strand,” speaks with amazing realism as it depicts a cozy outdoor corner with amazingly realistic plants.

Other pieces are powerful, yet humorous commentaries about our planet, such as the piece titled “Mother Earth” which features a woman who appears to be juggling planets, standing atop a flower-laden planet Earth while wearing a pair of Crocs. A yin-yang pin adorns her apron.

Other pieces include painstaking needle embroidery and beadwork providing a visual treat for those who appreciate fine details as in the “Mandala” series by artist Karen Matze. One such piece, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” contains hundreds of hand-sewn glass beads, creating a mosaic of color and texture.

Not just displaying quilts, the exhibit also features a collection of handmade art dolls made by Jacqui Levy.

“These really are extraordinary works,” says Cullen of the collection. “They each have their own personalities and quirks, and as the artist herself has said, 'They're almost a tiny bit creepy.'”

In support of this exhibition, the museum also culls its own archive for appropriate pieces of antique sewing and knitting items. Visitors can view an 1896 Singer sewing machine, complete with original cabinet, attachments and stunning Egyptian Revival graphics. Also on display are knitting items from the turn of the century, including a complete early-1900s knitting kit where homemakers could make extra money at home by producing hats, scarves, socks and other necessities of the time.

“With this kit, it turned women into entrepreneurs and helped supplement their family's income,” says Cullen.

Such pieces from the Neville's collection sit in humbling juxtaposition to the modern fiber art assembled in this exhibit.

“Materialized” is open now through November 10.

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