It may have been inevitable that Petra Fallaux became a fiber artist. She grew up in The Netherlands, the daughter of a textile worker and a seamstress.
“As a child, my father took me to the looms he managed at Krantz in Leiden, and I am forever fascinated by the weave of cloth,” she said. “I can still hear the rhythmic noise of the machines that went from hand driven to electronic monstrous behemoths.”
Fallaux’s mother also worked at Krantz, as a quality control darner. She taught her daughter knitting, crocheting, embroidery, sewing, and even macramé. Those lessons put Fallaux on her artistic path for life.
“Fabric is my passion. It’s my home,” she said. “It’s both my comfort and my challenge. I love pushing, exploring and finding out what I can put on cloth and do with cloth.”
That passion is one reason why the Schweinfurth Art Center selected Fallaux as one of two jurors for its annual Quilts=Art=Quilts (QAQ) exhibition, which runs Oct. 26, 2019, through Jan. 5, 2020 at the Auburn art center. She and fellow juror Claire Benn, of the United Kingdom, selected 73 from among nearly 300 entries, which represent 64 national and international artists.
Both Fallaux and Benn are fiber artists who have curated exhibitions and served as jurors for major quilt exhibitions, including Quilt National, European Art Quilt, and Fine Art Quilt Masters. This is the first time the two have juried Quilts=Art=Quilts.
Both have also curated exhibits, which Benn describes as an interesting experience because she has to set aside her personal preferences when selecting participants and artworks.
“For me, it’s important to focus on strong composition and make sure that any exhibition is diverse, whilst still working as a whole,” she said. “Sensitive hanging of the work is also important in terms of an exhibition that has a coherent feel and which flows well. This can include making sure pieces that might ‘fight’ each other are separated or coordinating areas by color, content, style, and size.”
Fallaux has seen an increasing interest in art quilts. “Many contemporary artists in other media have taken note of art quilts and are incorporating influences of cloth in their art practice,” she said. “Acceptance of art quilts as fine art is growing, in no small part thanks to the commitment of places to exhibiting art quilts, like at the Schweinfurth!”
Benn has also noted a trend toward eco printing and the use of recycled materials in art textiles. “I’ve also observed more political content from artists working with quilting as their medium in the United States,” she added.
In fact, several pieces in QAQ 2019 have political messages. Shannon Conley from Moore, OK, submitted a piece, “Louder than You Sing,” that features a dark background with the words, My American experience is not all American Experiences. “What do I want to say? That climate change is real and we need to take responsibility for it? That immigrant rights are human rights? That feminism isn’t a dirty word? Yes, yes, yes,” Conley said in her artist statement.
Patricia Kennedy-Zafred submitted a quilt, “American Portraits: Loss in the Heartland,” that is a tribute to family farmers and features portraits of farmers taken in the 1930s. “Every week, faced with economic hardship, long hours, and corporate competition, hundreds of farmers leave their land for good,” she said in her artist statement. “The independent family farm is an essential part of our diverse American fabric, representing strength, tenacity, patience, and perseverance.”
Joyce Martelli’s “Rain Forest” is a tribute to the lush rain forests she remembers from the past. “(Rain forests) give our planet oxygen and other nutrients that are needed for a clean planet,” she said in her artist statement. “Let’s not let them disappear.”
“This is one of the art center’s signature exhibits, and this year we have another great show,” said Schweinfurth Executive Director Donna Lamb. “Our jurors did a fantastic job in selecting quilts that represent the best of contemporary art quilts and show the diverse styles, subjects, and techniques employed by some of the top quilters in this country and beyond.”
Quilts=Art=Quilts 2019 opens Saturday, Oct. 26, with a free reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Additional events are planned for Quilters’ Weekend: a brunch and lecture by juror Petra Fallaux at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, followed at 1 p.m. by a tour of the exhibit led by Lamb. Registration is required for the brunch, and the tour is free with admission.
If you go …
What: Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibition
When: Oct. 26, 2019, through Jan. 5, 2020
Where: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn
Opening: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019; free to attend
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $10 per person; free for members and children 12 and under
Also on display: Narrative Quilts by Ellen M. Blalock