While quilt making was not considered a fine art I saw no reason for it to be kept peripheral. Like the blues or jazz it could become a powerful avenue of expression for a group who found themselves outside of mainstream cultural life. From the beginning the quilt allowed me a freedom to create unfettered. It was a blank canvas on which to paint outside the traditional forms.
In 1970, while teaching myself how to create a quilt, I became aware of the limitless possibilities the medium held. I discovered that I was an artist and that quilts were my medium of choice. No one was more surprised that me (well, maybe my parents), because in 1973 there was no such thing as a professional quilt artist. But I realized that was what I was, and while its been a very lonely path, I've never turned back and am grateful to have found something I love.
Since that time the medium has evolved to include techniques that combine computerized technology and innovations in the making of textiles. But I continue to choose every day fabric, collected from every day life, as my palette. It speaks to me. Because from birth to death, every single human being lives in intimate contact with fabric. Worldwide, poor or rich, fabric is accessible to and used by literally all people in all walks of life on a daily/nightly basis. Each one of us has a familiarity and connection to the language of fabric, no matter our station in life.
My work is rooted in the quilt tradition, but I take this as a point of departure in furthering this form of expression. Like many traditional quilts, my work is not intended to be used up as a bed covering, nor is it purely decorative. It is to be experienced as art.
Fabric has a musical resonance that inspires me. My approach to quilt making is painterly. Preferring to recycle fabrics that already have a history, this is a palette endlessly rich with associations both personal and cultural, as well as in the formal considerations of value, hue and texture.
For me, a quilt begins with an inner inkling, even a thirst for a particular pair or group of fabrics. I lay the pieces of fabric down on the floor like a brushstroke. Eventually, the scraps are brought together into a new whole cloth-- it is this alchemy I am after.
Hand quilting the pieced front breathes life into it. As I draw with the thread, the pieced front, batting and backing are sandwiched together. The quilt becomes subtly sculptural, a bas-relief, as the hills and valleys created by the quilting stitches create light and shadows that are in counterpoint to the piecework while also reinforcing it. Hopefully the finished quilt engages the mind, body and spirit conveying warmth both literally and figuratively.