Earth Stories  Juror's Statement

Jurying an exhibit is always an honor and a challenge, and I was pleased at the opportunity to serve as juror for Earth Stories. Earth stories celebrate stories of people or projects that enhance the planet, make a significant difference in restoring and/ or protecting the environment, increase sustainability and otherwise improve the earth we live in.

The selection process was one I never experienced before. I was to select 24 artists to exhibit based on their portfolio and theme proposal. I decided most importantly to select artists with compelling themes and those with strong portfolios with great use of color, design and technical skill. As a collector of quilts with an emphasis on social or political statements, I looked forward with great interest to see how each artist would interpret her proposed topic. We received entries from around the United States, Europe and the Middle East. The call for entries brought in a variety of outstanding portfolios which ran the gamut of what contemporary fiber artists are now producing. I tried to reflect this diversity while working within the exhibition theme.

I looked for work that would emotionally draw me in … pieces with the distinctive voice of the artist coming through which would be memorable and move my spirit. As I viewed the finished artworks on my computer screen, each piece was an engrossing visual testimony of powerful multilayered imagery about the condition of the world we live in. An individual or organization doing something to save the planet inspired each of the works. One of the hallmarks of great artwork is its visual strength and technical mastery, which is evident in all selected works. Each of the chosen quilts is visually strong, has a high degree of technical skill and an intellectually interesting storyline.

Themes were executed in a variety of styles which included abstract, painterly, figurative and graphic. The art in the exhibition spans symbolism, geo-political metaphor, deeply personal experience, hope, irony, and that restless aspiration that always seems to have one more horizon to cross. Each artist is skilled in the use of color and composition. The pieces used a variety of techniques such as painting, dyeing, drawing, patchwork, collage, appliqué, photo transfer, sketching with stitchery and more.

The power of the arts to promote certain causes lies in their emotive nature. The use of art to articulate alternative views adds an important dimension to understanding political, economical and social forces which harm our planet. This element is critical in movements and acts of social change. In these trying times, deliberate decisions to make a difference in restoring and protecting the environment are essential for our human survival. If we are to seriously change our planet, we must begin by changing ourselves.

Each of the artists in Earth Stories has raised awareness of pertinent issues through aesthetically pleasing and compelling imagery. The artwork in Earth Stories offers possibilities to visualize and explore issues which are important to saving the planet we live on. I hope the exhibit will encourage dialogue, raise consciousness, and empower individuals and communities. The artworks challenge us to see the world we live in differently, with respect for the land and all that live within.

Of the 24 entries selected for exhibition, most were narrative. Master storyteller and diarist Susan Shie’s quilt, Muddy Fork Farm: 3 of Wooden Spoons in the Kitchen Tarot, records in painstaking personal detail the impactof a visit to a farm that employs organic farming and a back-to-nature lifestyle. Her unmistakable style of combining boldly outlined and airbrushed painted images with tiny writing is always impressive. Paula Korvarik cleverly uses machine stitching in her piece, Stream of Consequences, to take us on a winding journey as the Wolf River meanders through city and farmland, affecting all living things in its path. It’s a Shell of a Problem by Leni Levenson Wiener uses raw-edge machine appliqué to demonstrate attempts at reversing a mishap of nature by trying to grow the turtle and tortoise population. Cynthia St. Charles’ Alternative — vs. — Fossil Fuels illustrates the debate around fuel choices. This labor-intensive block- and screen-printed work displays comments, pro and con, about the use of each type of energy source and its effect on the environment. The background fabric is blue, suggesting clean air.

Creating a sense of place in a striking landscape, Noriko Endo’s Woodland speaks to the importance of wooded areas, which are critical to plant, animal and migratory bird life. In her piece, Habitats: Species, Alicia Merrett creates a map representing reserved lands, which are habitat to many endangered species.

Nancy G. Cook and Patty Hawkins chose the topic of the intentional destruction of forests by burning in order to encourage new growth and allow energy from the sun to nourish plants. Hawkins’ Enigma of the Forest illustrates the dichotomy of burn and growth with a diptych made with screen-printed and shibori-dyed fabrics. Nancy G. Cook’s Ground Fire Brings Light and Life illustrates four specimens dependent on periodic fires.

Brooke Atherton’s Palimpsest, inspired by floating wetlands made from recycled plastic, alludes to topographic changes by the clever use of a recycled Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. Stunningly simple, fresh, on topic and to the point, yet innovative, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs’ Light Towers pays homage to the energy-saving lightbulb. A painterly tribute to efforts to save the crane is exquisitely detailed and stitched in Mary Pal’s Hope is the Thing with Feathers. Annie Helmericks-Louder’s Tender Bellys was inspired by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. Her collage piece presents an intimate view of nature while using a dazzling array of fabrics and textures.

Marilyn M. Prucka’s Upstream Downstream: River Raisin Dam Reclamation Project uses crochet work and other mixed media to give the work richness while creating a bit of mystery. Her diptych shows an expansive imagination and a rich cohesiveness in its contrast. Kathy Nida’s two artworks, Wise Choice and Planting Choice, are a tour de force. The intuitive genius of Nida’s piece is quite arresting in its commentary on women and presents a vital and poignant message. Her captivating work bravely addresses one of the most important issues on our planet — population control. Earth Mother and family stand firmly rooted and intertwined with the earth. The piece represents all Earth Stories is about.

I would like to thank curator Leni Wiener for being so helpful during the process, and to SAQA for asking me to be the juror for this exhibition. I would also like to thank the artists who have given viewers something to think about with their exceptional and thought- provoking artwork.

— Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi

Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi is a quilt historian, writer and independent curator. Widely exhibited in the United States and internationally, her quilts can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Museum of Art (Washington, D. C.), Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC), American Museum of Art and Design (New York City), and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum (Hartford, CT). She was awarded the first Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Mazloomi has been involved in the economic development of women through the arts for over twenty years. She has appeared on CBS Morning Show, The Today Show, CNN, HGTV, and has been the subject of several film documentaries. Dr. Mazloomi was one of six artists commissioned to create artwork for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.