Radical Elements  Curator's Statement

In 2001, I worked on a project in which I attempted to answer the question, “What is an art quilt?” Ten years later, I realized that the definition I had so carefully crafted was no longer accurate. In a relatively short period of time, the field of art quilting had undergone a fundamental change. The primary focus had shifted from decorating the surface of a quilted wall hanging to a much broader acceptance of ideas, styles and materials.

As an organization, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) saw this shift occurring and recently changed their definition of art quilt to more accurately reflect the work that is being produced by its members today. The definition of art quilt is now “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.” Radical Elements happens to be the first SAQA exhibit to follow this new definition, but it actually does more than that. This exhibit pushes the definition’s limits.

The artists in Radical Elements were selected from an international pool of SAQA members who submitted their portfolios for consideration. Several additional artists were invited in order to include a broad range of styles and artist backgrounds. All forty artists were chosen because their work showed a high level of quality and creativity.

As the first part of the Radical Elements theme, each artist was asked to interpret a chemical element from the periodic table. However, there was an additional twist. The artists were asked not to use the traditional quilt-making materials of fabric and thread (or at least to use them as little as possible). In order to adhere to the new art quilt definition, they needed to find and use alternative materials that would act as the quilt’s layers, then they had to fasten the layers together by some innovative method.

Conceptually, the artists were allowed to interpret their element any way they wanted. My hope is that this exhibition will challenge and expand perceptions and possibilities for both the viewing public and for future artists. Considering how far art quilting has already come, it will be interesting to see where it goes in the next ten years and beyond.


— Jill Rumoshosky Werner

Jill Rumoshosky Werner has exhibited her artwork in museums, art centers and galleries around the U.S. and abroad and has won national and international awards. An experienced curator and writer, Werner has been awarded two fellowships from the Kansas Arts Commission.