A Lovely June Adventure with a Friend
Sharing the artists' perspectives
There are few things as fun as going on an adventure of discovery with a friend. Tauna Cole-Dorn is a watercolor artist who recently had a show called “Gazing Out from Within” at Aa Studios on Doña Ana Road. She is also a yoga instructor and an all-around wonderful, kind, and delightful person.
On a Friday in June, we headed to the Branigan Cultural Center on Main Street in Downtown Las Cruces, next to Beck's Coffee kiosk, to explore the combined exhibition of “The Wisdom of Trees and Thorns and Spikes” collections of art quilts made by the 14 members of 4 Common Corners. 4 Common Corners is an invitational group of fiber artists “drawn together by [their] immersion in the unique beauty of the four corners region of the southwest United States.”
Along the walls, perfectly spaced and perfectly lighted, the art quilts glowed with their majesty. Tauna smiled. I know this because I was watching for her reaction, not quite sure what she would think of this show of fibers, fabric, thread, and in one case, aluminum screen. I needn’t have worried.
As we made our way from quilt to quilt, reading the titles and the quilt stories provided by each artist, we became engrossed in the techniques in each. And what made this visit so rich and rewarding was sharing Tauna's view through a different artistic discipline. As a quilter, I looked at the quilts in terms of composition and quilting techniques: piecing or not, appliqué styles, quilting patterns and fabric choices. Tauna was seeing how the artists' choices created visual impact: Was the quilt literal or abstract based on its title and story?
There were two interpretations of claret cup cacti. Spiny Echinocereus, by Lynn Rogers of Rio Rancho is more abstract, while Claret Cup Cactus by Michelle Jackson of Sandia Park is up close and personal.
Art quilts use many and sometimes extraordinary techniques and Lantern Flames is an exceptional example. Made by Shannon Conley, the quilt is made with actual window screen, a reminder of the “sharp sting of actual cuts" made in a DIY screening repair.
As amazed as we had been by the Lantern Flames construction, we were not prepared for the leafy representation in Aspen Tree Forest at Kebler Pass by Nicole Dunn. [Image 4].
At first viewing, one notices the very tall trees of raw edge appliqué and the beautiful, very tiny meander quilting pattern in the blue sky. As we paid more attention to the sky, we wondered how Nicole had gotten those clouds “there.” How did she do that? I had never seen material like it. Anything was possible. Maybe she took some blue cotton fabric and bleached it where she wanted the clouds. The quilting goes around the clouds, making sure not to spoil their 3-D puffiness.
And then Tauna said, “Look at the leaves.” The tree leaves are made of millions of very small pieces of shades of yellow and green fabric. My quilting mind boggled at the idea of carefully cutting up all those tiny pieces. We cut with rotary cutters, usually, but maybe she cut tiny strips with a rotary cutter and then crosscut into squares with scissors. But they all looked so perfectly cut. We stood, pondering the options, for a long time.
We noticed the blue sky peeking through the leaves. We noticed the meander quilting pattern that left the texture very leafy. We discussed the grass and crosshatch quilting patterns Nicole had used for the ground. And finally, we dragged ourselves away from those amazing leaves.
We will have another chance to enjoy the beauty of 4 Common Corners quilts in December, from 2 to 29 when “4 Corners - Extremes in the Southwest” is on exhibit at the Doña Ana Arts Council Gallery.