Yesterday I took the #20 bus into town, then the yellow Max train north until the end of the line. There, near (but not near enough to see) the joining of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, is the Portland Expo Center. It is a huge convention center surrounded by a huge parking lot. It felt very much like California, where every building has its requisite slab of asphalt.
Inside, there were hundreds of quilts, and hundreds of people who make, love, and even sell them. I was amazed at the level of workmanship…every corner met exactly, every seam lay flat, every stitch was tiny.
Many of the quilts were traditional motifs like Log Cabin and Texas Star, executed in traditional fabrics. Perfect, but to me, they shared the flaw of a Flemish painting: perfection of technique over …ooomph.
I value ooomph.
For example, there is a whole new (to me) school of applique, where the edges of appliqued fabric aren’t turned under, but very closely machine sewn. This gives the piece an easy, watercolored feel that is delightfully informal. Not exactly high art, but fun and energetic.
What I hadn’t expected was the degree of artistry. Not just great precision, but having something to say and saying it. A point of view, a political statement, a cry for love or peace or justice…these aren’t common in quilts. But here they were.
I found the most beautiful, sad political statement of all. This quilt of death dancing with his bride, money falling o of her gown, and this quote:
“Only when the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted, will we realize we can’t eat money and we can’t drink oil”.
Then there were some with both oomph and joy and precision….. which I will share at the bottom of this post.