Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lucy Wallis' quilt

Judy Martin home studio  collected inspiration wall

Lucy Wallis Circle on Square I 1984,  taffeta, velvet and cotton
This quilt by Lucy Wallis has been very important to me.
I saw it in a book published in 1990 entitled Quilts: The James Collection.
There is not much information about it.  Most of the text in the book is in Japanese.
Lucy Wallis lived on a farm in Somerset England when she made this quilt.
Apparently she made another similar quilt, but I have not seen it.
Circle on Square I by Lucy Wallis, page 108 and 109 in Quilts: The James Collection
By 1991 I had already discovered Lenore Tawney's amazing circle in square weavings (here's one) but this was the first time I felt that a quilt pulled off this important archetype.
Quilts: The James Collection  1990 Kokusai (published in Japan)
The book is still available online (at reasonable cost), and the actual quilt is part of the James Collection, International Quilt Study Museum in Lincoln Nebraska.  The museum dates Lucy's quilt at 1987 and orients it differently than the book.   see here
Judy Martin' colelction of inspiration wall in home studio (with top of chair)
I've used a large photo of the Lucy Wallis quilt for teaching purposes and came across that photo last week.  I pinned it on my studio wall.  (view old wall here)
Judy age 7 or 8 
This wall holds a collection of photos and momentos that I find such as this birthday card I made for my dad when he turned 86.
top: Aino Sibelius, the Finnish composer's wife
 middle, Lucy wallis's quilt Circle On Square I,
bottom Rothko's Orange and Tan 1954 oil on canvas
There is a narrow place by the closet that I use for 4 x 6 images.  Lucy's quilt has been here for a good long time, along with a quote by Jeanette Winterson and a photo of me from grade 9.
Judy Martin age 14 (new haircut)
Mended World, part of the community stitch project (2009-2013) is a response to Lucy Wallis' beautiful, complicated use of cloth and stitch.
Lucy Wallis Circle on Square I  detail  taffeta, velvet, machine embroidery (I believe)
Thank you Lucy.

And here's the Jeanette Winterson quote
Life has an inside as well as an outside.  Consumer culture directs all resources and attention to life on the outside.  What happens to the inner life?Art is never a luxury because it stimulates and responds to the inner life.    We are badly out of balance.
I don't think of art/creativity as a substitute for anything else.  I see it as a powerful expression of our humanity - and on the side of humanity under threat.  
If we say art is a luxury, we might as well say that being human is a luxury.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What does Quilt National mean to you?

I have used Quilt National catalogues as learning tools for years and years.  I own all of them and refer to them often.  Even living in Northern Ontario Canada, I feel companionship with the excellent artists I meet through their work in the Quilt National biennial publications.  These artists encourage me to continue working.  I believe in the emotional power and the charged beauty of hand stitched bed-sized quilts.
my studio book shelf
I believe that quilts are connected to the bed and all the messy and beautiful things that happen there. Art quilts can carry this deep and primal energy should they choose to.

All through the history of Quilt National, I have found contemporary versions of the quilt - bed - life - metaphor that inspires me so much.  This in spite of the usual description of this exhibition as one that embraces a departure from 'the tradition'.
 After years of trying, I was accepted into the 2011 Quilt National.  It was an amazing experience.
I attended the opening and saw the Dairy Barn in Athens Ohio and met some of my personal art-quilt heroines.  (Judy Kirpich's Circles No. 4 is on the cover of the catalog that year)
My piece (Cross My Heart) was well received.  In the QN catalog (page 58 and 59) it is opposite Kevan Lunney's Archeology: Fragment #14, Enso).  Cross My Heart sold on opening day and a detail of it was published widely on the internet.  Being included in the 2011 exhibition gave me inner confidence.  I began to really trust my own voice.

I am thrilled to be included in Quilt National 2017.  It's the 20th biennial since Nancy Crow founded it in 1979.  One of my heroines, Nancy is one of the jurors this year.
Soft Summer Gone 2016 Judy Martin detail  plant dyed silk with hand stitched quilting

Monday, February 06, 2017


contemplation and vulnerability
interior and exterior
dark and light
every single piece
damaged in some way
torn ripped collapsed

to be whole one must be wounded
the realtionship between my body and the scale of my work
the physical gestures of my arms and hands
the way the viewer needs to move back and forth to experience it
the network of large scars
the small repetitive piercings of the needle
I begin with cloth
pinning, touching, holding
stepping back from
looking at
feeling, remembering
the body is a way of knowing
and cloth is like the body

Phenomenology is the lived experience of the world for both maker and viewer.
the raw edges, the stitches,
literally catch the corner of our eye
this is a level of abstraction that you need to slow down for
the marks are made one at a time over a long period of time

I'm building on work I started years ago
small,nearly identical marks

slow down to see it
yearn to touch it
fragile cloth
monumental scale
phsyical repetitive activity

It is our senses and deep memories that connect us to our emotions,

(a post about my new work for exhibition)

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Arms Race Catharine MacTavish

catharine mactavish arms race 1984 detail
I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario last week.
The most interesting piece for me was this painting by Toronto artist Catherine MacTavish.
I liked the scale of it.
I liked the layers of acrylic paint over and under beads.
I liked the slashes that are used as if drawn marks.
catharine mactavish arms race 1984 acrylic, glass and plastic beads, metal grommets
The painting dates from the mid 80's and I assume that the title refers to the nuclear arms race of that period of history.

The bead-marks are intuitive yet obsessive.  They attract yet repulse.
I yearn to touch them, even pick at them but they look as if they might rub away.

I'm afraid of that.
catharine mactavish arms race collection of Art Gallery of Ontario
It's white like a piece of paper, only extra large.
A cosmic scale.
arms race detail of acrylic and bead painting by Catherine MacTavish
It's hard to find information about this artist but there are several paragraphs on the Paul Petro gallery web site - here and here.

From these I learned that Catharine MacTavish studied at Queens University in Montreal and then at York University in Toronto during the early 70's and that she then exhibited at both artist-run and public galleries.  I learned that her work is included in important public collections, (the Canada Council Art Bank and the AGO) and that she acquired a Masters degree in 2005.  I learned that although she removed herself from the art scene during the late 80's she continued to make art.

"Each piece entails a slow conceptual and technical percolation, she produces one dense painting every two or three years."  Paul Petro. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

the tenderness, the beauty

We drove north on the back roads
 I stitched.
Our new baby :three days old above, six days old below
art is not about art.  art is about life.
Louise Bourgeois

Friday, January 20, 2017


the yellow wall paper, 1988  hand made paper, cotton, fuzing and stitch,
typed text from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story 
I have a lot of news.
I am putting it into this single post.
All illustrations are stitched paper pieces I made when I was 32 or so. (sorry,they are scanned from slides and some are fuzzy}
"I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall paper until I felt creepy"
I am still experiencing a lot of pain and lameness in my left leg.  (bad news )
section of diptych Woman is Nurture  watercolour on paper, stitched to velvet, found text 1987
I am preparing a solo show for a commercial gallery in Toronto for this coming October.  The gallery is the David Kaye Gallery.  (good news)
I am making new work for it.  (more good news)
Grandmother's Paper Garden 1987, women's magazine papers stitched to cotton
I am included in a new book about the history of the art quilt.  The quilt that will represent me is from the 80's  here and here  I'm very thrilled to be included among such important quilt artists as Nancy Crow, Dorothy Caldwell, Yvonne Porcella, Chungie Lee, Michaael James, Yoshiko Jinzenji...on and on.  here is the entire list.  (good news)
The Mother The Child 1988 cut up watercolour painting and family photographs stitched to damask,
overlayed with ink drawing on sheer organza 
That reminds me that Martha Sileman's International Art Quilts: Abstract and Geometric came out last month.  (here)
the mother the child detail ( nine-patches made from photos of my childhood and paintings of tree branches)
 I saved the best news for last.
the mother the child 1988 stitched paper on damask , a self portrait
We have a new baby in our family.  Maia was born Thursday January 19, a little sister for Aili.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the river beneath

I'm always taken care of by my work.
You let go of your own idea and let the work go where it needs to go.
And that's sometimes very uncomfortable.
One learns to linger in discontent and not be judgmental, but to have faith.
Kiki Smith

more views of this piece in   New Work,  the river beneath.