Saturday, August 22, 2015

Improv Immersion: Rod Kiracofe Shows and my Study Group

Rod Kiracofe just gave a walk-through of Found/Made, his current show. He included works from several major collectors, contemporary artists, and quilters. There's a list on the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles website. Rod can "charm the birds from the trees" as we'd say back home. Not only did he talk gallery owners and artists into contributing works, he convinced the owners of one quilt to take it off their bed so he could use it!

The works are much more nuanced in person that they could ever be in a mere photo. You can clearly see Rod's sophisticated and whimsical eye in the staging of this exhibit. He effortlessly highlights relationships between different artists causing viewers to consider what inspires them and how those touchstones thread through time. The show runs until November 1, 2015, so make plans to see it.

Quilt tops hung on a clothesline point the way to the entrance. The one in the middle is entirely double-knit polyester, very precisely cut and pieced. I wonder if it was made after 1979 when rotary cutters became available? Rod deliberately hung the one on the left backwards so visitors could see the sewing and seam allowances. You better believe I checked each seam closely. Extremely interesting but also a cautionary tale to quilters: "If you don't finish your tops, everyone can (and will) take a gander at your piecing!"

Quilt tops from Found Made, a quilt exhibit curated by Rod Kiracofe at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Rod Kiracofe at the entrance to Found/Made,
his exhibit at San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.
Photo used with permission.

Rod has collected quilts since the 1970's. Among his many books, he wrote two seminal quilt histories. The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950 is an excellent chronological overview of quilting through those centuries. His newest book, Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Under the Radar, 1950-2000 focuses on the eccentric, improvisational quilts dear to his heart. In my opinion, Okan Arts wrote the most interesting review.

This past April Rod curated Unconventional and Unexpected at the Sonoma Art Museum, juxtaposing quilts from his book with Shaker furniture and tools. Fan (partial view below) appears on page 146. Rod collected it from Wood County, Texas, which just happens to be the birthplace of my husband. How's that for coincidence?

From Unconventional and Unexpected, Sonoma Art Museum and the book of the same name by Rod Kiracofe.
Fan from Unconventional and Unexpected,
Sonoma Art Museum. Photo used with permission.

Pools of light emphasized the rich colors and textures of the quilts and brought the soft patinas of the wood into focus.  I was especially struck by the quilts he hung as if they were on a clothesline blowing in the breeze. Obviously, that image evokes strong, early family memories for both of us.

Unconventional and Unexpected,
Sonoma Art Museum.
Photo used with permission.

On a more personal note, four of us meet monthly to discuss sections of The Improv Handbook by Sherri Wood. We share our current project, inspirations, roadblocks, detours, and successes. Although we are working the same score, our results differ wildly, showing that artists and artisans working in community can sometimes reach greater heights than working in isolation.

Floating Squares from our study group.
Same score but four different results.
Last month we brought floating square tops. Clockwise from the left in the group photo above. Mine was large and scrappy; I already posted about it. MN grouped her green and red fabrics into strong color-blocks on a baby quilt. She's written two posts: the beginning and the finish. MKreative started a table runner of very sophisticated triangles that she wrote about here. Tami's selected aquas and purples from her scrap bag. She hasn't written a post yet but her blog is here.

After we've exhausted our discussion, taken photos, and enjoyed our tea, we choose what we want to explore next. While it's lovely to write back and forth with quilters in blogland it's even more fun to share, learn, and laugh in person. I'm very lucky to work with these talented women.

Enjoy the day, Ann


Janie said...

Thanks, Ann, for sharing all this, so fun and exciting. I'm smiling a lot inside. I have to go the San Jose Quilt Museum and see Found Made and buy a couple of books and.....

Ann said...

They have fabulous exhibits every time I go through. This one is exceptional for the breadth of artists contributing

Kaja said...

Wow what a fabulous exhibition - yet again I find myself wishing I lived nearer! Unconventional and Unexpected is one of my favourite books and I would love to see anything Kiracofe had curated; I particularly like that he is mixing older quilts with contemporary work - it sounds so exciting. It's interesting too to see the work from your book study group and how different each person's take is. Being able to do this in person always sounds like the best fun.

Ann said...

It is fabulous. I really loved the spotlighting of the previous show but in many ways this one is even better. The mix of anonymous (found) quilts with current art (many of which were created with found objects) is stellar. His layout highlights the visual connections between times and places. As he mentioned, since magazines were readily available to people in even remote areas, the same visual symbols became available and meaningful to almost everyone.

Tonya Ricucci said...

wonderful. so lucky to go see those quilts! and having a fun group to experiment with, also wonderful.

Mel said...

Great review of the Lost/Found exhibit--definitely worth a trip to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Great photo from your improv study group--what fun, interest and variety! Can't wait to see how your group tackles the other scores!

Ann said...

It's a good show and I hope many people will be able to see it. I'm fortunate to work with such good quilters.

Ann said...

Thanks, Mel. I hope loads of people go to this show. Everything I've seen at SJMQT is insightful and inspiring. Our study group is having a blast; we're all looking forward to the September meeting.

Mystic Quilter said...

Sounds a great Exhibition, thanks for posting and including photos. Like the results from your study group all so very different!

Ann said...

I find these more intimate shows so enjoyable. There is time to look in detail and always lots to see.
Isn't it interesting how differently our work comes out, even when we meet in person. Just wait till you see their strings!

audrey said...

Wow! So fascinating! I would love to go to a Kiracofe show. Thanks for the links to your fellow Improv. friends blogs. Sounds like the best of times getting to meet up and share in person.:)

Ann said...

I know what you mean. There are fabulous shows everywhere if you are in the neighborhood. I would love to see some in France... and the Victoria and Albert in London. Hmm. Need a vacation.
My improv friends are great. We are all learning from each other. Each of us handles improv in a different manner.

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Your description of this show is fantastic. Love the way the quilts are hung - it is so wonderful to see a fresh approach! Quilts from the celing and hung backwards is so interesting. I will look up the Okay ARts review - I follow Patricia and love reading her blog! AND - I am really getting into the improv thing. So you post hits home. Thanks for sharing this show and the book info!!!

Ann said...

How kind of you, Teresa. I'm so impressed by the way Rod hung both these shows. As you say, a fresh approach.

Sujata Shah said...

Not happy at all that you got to see these beauties in person and I didn't!!! Lucky you! I am sure you are charged, excited to be in your sewing room inspired from it all. Looking forward to see how it all unfolds.

Ann said...

It is more fun to see quilts in person, isn't it? Smaller shows invite you to linger and reflect. SJMQT mounts very interesting displays. You saw several quilt exhibits in India as I recall. At least I have Geeta Khandelwal's book you recommended. So much inspiration! Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful review and insightful thoughts you have shared. Roderick Kiracofe