Ellie Kreneck – Lubbock, Texas, USA
West Texas, with its raw rugged landscapes and immense skies, invokes a mystic response in me. Because my art is narrative, I see it populated with a cast of saints and assorted Biblical figures who drive pick-up trucks, and confront housework – I also envision animals (rabbits, bison, wolves) wandering the skies as spirits or prowling the land while on their various quests.
Occasionally (because of spending a month in China) glimpses of that culture are visible. My latest series is involved with a fascination with how we reproduce desirable features of the natural world – cooling breezes, sunlight, and running water in our homes.
(Click images to enlarge)
SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?
KRENECK: I took a class in batik at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina in 1977 and was hooked on making art with fabric then. In subsequent Penland classes I learned how to paint with dyes and resists – and also some of the basics of quilting.
I have a BFA from the University of Texas, Austin, where painting and sculpture were stressed. The possibility of making art with fabric was not even mentioned to me in the 1950s. At this point, I have not even considered making a painting in years.
SAQA: What inspires you?
KRENECK: My passions inspire me. #1 is my husband, Lynwood, whom I met in a painting lab at UT. He went on to get his masters in printmaking and taught that subject for 40 years at Texas Tech University. Recently at a party someone asked me if we ever talk about art at home. I looked at her in surprise and said ”constantly.”
Other passions involve the landscape of West Texas, which features, in turn, raw, rugged canyons and absolute flatness – always with an enormous sky and constant wind. Lots of people are appalled by this area of Texas. I adore it. As a child I loved silhouettes as illustrations in my books of stories as much as the narratives themselves. My art makes use of both. I am very fond of tales of the saints and I definitely have a mystical streak. Both of these show up in my quilts.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?KRENECK: I’ve already mentioned one artist (see above). I love the art of 13th – early 15th century European painters – especially of Northern Europe because they feature many saints and narrative art. I love the post-Impressionists and expressionists because of the way they changed the reality of what they visually saw to represent their internal vision. I’m all for that.
SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?
KRENECK: Part of every quilt is painted with very concentrated fiber reactive liquid dyes diluted with a combination of water, urea, softener – and thickener when appropriate. I activate the dyes with soda. Several kinds of resists are used to stem the flow of the dyes when needed. Some resists are designed to wash out leaving white fabric; others remain in the cloth.
Part of the quilt is pieced with purchased fabric using machine stitching. Almost all of my quilts feature appliqué. I usually blind stitch the applique but occasionally I use raw edge appliqué attached with a fusible bonding web.
My quilts always feature the traditional “sandwich” consisting of top, batting and backing. I have come to love quilting with my sewing machine, which better enables me to use stitches as a line element- very densely in some places and sparsely in others. That said, I always include some hand stitching because I enjoy the visual result of the contrast of machine with hand stitching.
SAQA: Where do you create?
KRENECK: I have a studio that is a little rough, but very serviceable and cozy. The walls (except where I photograph art) are covered with family photos, prayers and blessings, obituaries (lots of friends have died), art posters, and part of my collection of 1930s and ‘40s dime store curved glass silhouette pictures.
SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?KRENECK: I think that this question is a good one – but will necessarily vary depending on one’s age and financial circumstances. When our kids were in college I was very interested in every dollar we could earn. Now – at nearly 80, our financial circumstances are adequate and I really want to express how I feel and what I care about. My main focus is to communicate to a worthy audience. Trying to communicate to Everyone usually means you are producing banality.
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?
KRENECK: I always work in series and usually have a couple going. I just finished the 5th in a series of pieces in which I have organized some of my favorite West Texas images into (hopefully) coherent designs. It’s been a lot of fun. I plan to come back to the series, but at this precise moment I am working on landscape images that actually exist. The challenge is to make these places recognizable and still inject my feelings about them into the mix. Think Cezanne and Mont Sainte-Victoire. I do.
View more of Ellie Kreneck’s work on her SAQA Juried Artist Member gallery page
Acquire artwork by Ellie Kreneck during the 2016 SAQA Benefit Auction!