Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Book Review - Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World

I received a copy of this book from Lark for review. First and foremost, this is a book review and not a commentary on what is art or even an evaluation of the fiber art in the book.

Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World  is written by Martha Sielman. She is the executive director of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates), the world's largest art quilt organization. She has been a professional artist, author, lecturer, curator, juror and arts administrator for over 20 years. This volume is the first of several in this series, each exploring a different theme.

The book is a soft covered book measuring 8.5 by 10 inches and is 192 pages long.  Unlike over sized or fat and chunky books, this size makes it very easy to hold and read and will fit on my book shelf easily (dumb, I know but important to me.) The quality of the paper is superb as are the quilt images, which are very clear and sharply executed. I find it interesting to note that many of the images have been taken by the artist. I add this thought only because of the many discussions that take place in the art quilt world about the necessity of having a professional photographer take your quilt images. These would say that is not necessarily so.

The scale of  the images changes from page to page. Some are juxtaposed with text. For me, having a large photo along with several smaller ones added interest to the overall book. It is also interesting to note that there are no close up/cross sections of any of the quilts. This is different from many art quilt books but brilliant as it allows the reader to focus on design and not techniques or execution. It is, after all, an art quilt book.

What I like most about this book is the way it is organized. There are nine sections: Flowers I, Birds, Water, Animals, Leaves, Insects, Flowers II, Trees, and Textures. Each section opens with two or three featured artists whose typical work is representative of the section theme. A compendium of their work is presented. Not quite work in a series but seeing numerous pieces by the same artist allows the reader to note how an artist applies the principles of design, adds complexity and keeps the eye moving. Each artist speaks to their beginnings, their inspiration and their intent. In addition, there is also work from a myriad of  artists whose styles are quite varied while the theme remains constant.

The section on birds contains a collection entitled Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, which represents work from the group, Fiber Artists Coalition (FAC), who are artists living in the northern Midwest. I was totally fun to see the variety of work produced from this common theme.

Cassandra William's work leads the section on animals. I have seen some of her work over the years and it is spectacular. The complexity she is able to achieve is amazing. I enjoyed the opportunity to read about her and see a number of her pieces all together in one place.

It was also delightful to see Dominie Nash's Big Leaf series. I had only seen her Stills from a Life before this and they are two completely different types of work. This is worth the price of the book.

The vastly different styles of art contained in The Natural World are what makes this book so special. You will find the complex piecing of Ruth McDowell and Cassandra Williams, the complex thread work of Annemieke Mein and Dottie Moore, the soothingly, beautiful work of Nancy Cook and Elaine Quehl and everything in between. I was happy to see digital art and screen printed pieces such as Katherine Allen's included as well.

This is a book worth adding to your collection. Not only is it informative, it is a feast for the eyes. Something you will enjoy for years to come. Congratulations, Martha Sielman, on a job well done. I look forward to the next in this series.

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