“What makes a quilt ‘modern’?” my husband recently asked. Isn’t that a loaded question? We’d recently been to the Yale University Art Gallery. When we visit this museum, we usually go our separate ways. He wanders the impressionistic galleries and visits the old masters, while I automatically trot to the third floor to see paintings by my favorite modern artists. Although we both love art, we’ve found it is more fun to see what we like on our own then talk about our visit over a cup of coffee later.
I could spend hours standing in front of an Albers painting or a Rothko canvas. Each brush stroke is brilliant. Each composition is tight and complete. Each painting is spare and sparse, yet full of meaning. Colors interact, dance through my head, and inspire my own quilted artwork. My husband feels the same way about his favorite artists. Their work inspires and informs his creativity. We each have a different aesthetic preference, but delight in what the other finds inspiring.
So what does all this have to do with modern quilting? Not much, yet everything. Here’s how I believe they are connected: We are all a product of the sum of our experiences. Every book we’ve read, every song we’ve sung, every glimpse of exquisite art, and every mind-altering visit to a museum influences what we eventually create. So in order to create great modern quilts, it is beneficial to be exposed to great modern art.
The November/December 2017 issue of Modern Patchwork features quilts with strong graphic composition and bold, minimalist design. In his ongoing series “Making Modern,” columnist Thomas Knauer explores the concept of Minimalism. He shares so much great information in this article, but this quote jumped out at me: “(Minimalist) quilts rarely reveal themselves at a glance, instead offering layer upon layer of possible understanding.” Just like the Rothko painting, I revisit time and again, I can look at the quilts in this issue numerous times and still see something fresh and new. Each one of them will influence how I look at other modern quilts, and ultimately what I produce in my studio.
As your journey with modern quilting takes you on new adventures, whether in your own backyard or abroad, I hope you take a few hours and plant yourself in front of some art—some great art—for inspiration.