Light the World - Juror's Essay

Jan Myers-Newbury

The entry call for Light the World went out before COVID-19 changed all of our lives. Did the organizers foresee that creativity with the theme of LIGHT would be so needed as a tonic in 2020? Probably not, but of course there are many things in the modern world that require a tonic. As I write this, I feel that we are at last on the brink; the post-pandemic new normal is edging closer. For the last eleven months, we have all felt at least some moments of darkness, isolation, perhaps even desolation. How appropriate it is that the notion of the “light at the end of the tunnel” was expressed by many of the artists who submitted work for Light the World. I know that viewing the work submitted was like finding a shot of beauty in my own isolation.

There were several outstanding quilts that immediately fit my own working hypothesis of how to create luminosity by manipulating color: light values juxtaposed with darks, brilliance set against dullness, warm colors emerging from coolness. These are to me the hallmarks of manipulating color to light the world. Brilliant examples of these principles, coupled with solid design, can be seen in Maya Chaimovich’s A Tiny Moment of Happiness, Shin-hee Chin’s Harvest Moon, and Alicia Merrett’s Genesis of the Stars, to name but a few.

But I also found myself surprised by work that didn’t immediately shout out these formal truisms. Many of the quilts exhibited a broad range of emotion and content that superseded prescribed color usage. This was instructive to me, as one who has worked with geometric abstraction for close to fifty years. Several of the most compelling entries combined formal considerations with content. Lena Meszaros has created a luminous example in We Are All Light, and Mary-Ellen Latino achieves a glowing serenity with Global Guardian Angel. Both artists reference creativity and connectedness as a way to reach beyond the limitations of narrow views.

I would like to thank SAQA for the honor of jurying this show. Its theme touched my heart, and I was gratified by the breadth of entries. My task was not easy, but it was fulfilling.

Exhibition Details


About the Juror

Jan Myers-Newbury is internationally recognized for her pieced quilts constructed from hand-dyed fabric and based on techniques, particularly shibori and the layering of color using dyes and discharge, that she has developed over forty years. The result is lyrical, often nature-referenced work, which is singularly unique.

She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and been included in a record fourteen Quilt National exhibitions, winning Best of Show in 1993. Widely respected for sharing her personal dye techniques and enthusiasm for art quilts, she has taught workshops around the world.

Myers-Newbury’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the National Quilt Museum, Museum of American Design, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minnesota Historical Society, and the International Quilt Museum. Additionally, Myers-Newbury’s quilts are included in over 250 corporate and private collections throughout the United States. In 1999, she was a presenter at the Third International Shibori Symposium in Santiago, Chile. Her quilt, Depth of Field: A Plane View, was selected as one of the 20th Century’s 100 Best Quilts, and her work is widely published, including most recently, Art Quilts Unfolding and Masters: Art Quilts.