By Patricia Belyea
LOS ANGELES CA When I was leaving the Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters exhibit at Craft & Folk Art Museum, a teacher leading an adult class was starting a tour. He asked the group “Is there anything that indicates to you that these quilts were all made by men.” A wise guy in the crowd piped up, “Yeah, I read it on the sign coming in.”
I didn’t stay to hear how the discussion progressed. Instead I pondered “Is that a good question? Does gender orientation matter in the world of quilts?”
Let’s take a look at some of the quilts, starting with my pal Joe Cunningham’s work. Joe transcended his original training in traditional quilting and developed a personal style that’s both thoughtful and quirky.
In his American Context series, Luke Haynes re-created iconic paintings with everyday models, using old clothing and fabric.
Ben Venom’s name reminded me of the "what came first" chicken-and-egg question. Is Ben’s given surname Venom? Did that push him to create quilts with “fringe” elements. Or did Ben adopt his last name as part of his artist persona? Does it really matter when one looks at his heavy-metal quilts filled with motorcycle gangs, tattoos and occult images?
Sci-fi fan Jimmy McBride transformed black and white images from the Hubble Space Telescope into colorful cosmic quilts that include men’s shirts.
Shawn Quilan, a film editor by day, clipped and spliced together his powerfully crazy quilts filled with oddball fabrics.
Creating the opposite of a soft quilt, artist Joel Otterson produced a scrappy concrete quilt made with a decade of leftovers from ceramic projects.
Dan Olfe, Ph.D., an engineering dude, used 3D computer rendering to create digitally printed quilts that look like they’re straight from a science textbook on LSD.
A self-proclaimed “nerdy Appalachian queer guy,” Aaron McIntosh deconstructed sexually charged cultural media into quilty compositions.
The CAFAM exhibit accomplished a meritorious goal: it provoked questions. And unlike the quilts my grandmother made, the works of these eight men are neither cosy nor comfortable.
Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters closes this Sunday, so hurry over if you’re in the area. Or head to the exhibit at Asheville Art Museum in Asheville NC, running from June 27 to December 27.
Bonus: When you get to CAFAM, be sure to visit the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits right across the street!