Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Bee At the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

90" x 103"

I was in San Jose, California last week and visited the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles where I saw several excellent shows including Earthly Paradise: Memory, Myth, Metaphor featuring work by A Bee.

A Bee is the name of a collective of two artists, Carrie Houseman and Darbury Novoselic. I was not familiar with their work and was very impressed with the show, the size of the pieces, and the consistant quality.

The work was hung in two large galleries and many pieces were in the range of 12 feet square. The duo refers to the work as tapestries. The pieces are generally two layers of silk stitched together. The origin of the imagery is from very exotic and personal sketches which are then transfered to screens and printed onto the silk. Some of the works may have been "whole cloth" but I believe most were works were constructed from sections of many different fabrics. The color schemes were very simple and bold. Most were one dark color printed on a light or the reverse but there were flecks of other colors.

After screening, various pieces of the fabric are pieced into the final composition and then the entire surface is intensly quilted. They presented a short but informative video of their process including the quilting on their fabulous Consew Industrial sewing machine. I'm not sure which of the women was doing the quilting in the video but she was really rocking out! There wasn't a flat area in the finished work. The surface undulated like the Pacific Ocean.....lovely.

Detail: Ulysses
108" x 128"

I found their level of technique/craftsmanship very appealing as it was what I call "rough and tumble". Just right for the overall aesthetic of their work which was rather elegant. There was no fussness as to how the work was constructed and the edge treatment was really nice. When you visit their website it's hard to see the edges but basically they add an edging to both layers and then just open that edging and stitch everything together. Some of the edgings are simply strips of additional fabric which appears to have been cut with pinking shears and one was locks of sheeps wool. These strips may have been cut on the bias as they looked soft and relaxed. How refreshing.

This body of work was very cohesive and clear, simple and complex. The artists acknowledge their relationship and inspiration to quiltmaking but have taken a very unique and fresh approach to a very old artform. Hey! Works for me.

I just received permission to present images of a couple of pieces but here is their link and I hope you enjoy the visit:

PS...On their website click PRINTS and you will find images of their work. Look to the right of the link to CONTACT and there is an arrow so you can scroll through the images.

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  1. Wow!!! I may have to buy a ticket to fly to San Jose. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Terry,
    Thanks for posting about this show at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. I found it to be very stimulating as well. The curatorial staff at this museum has really been putting onsome great exhibits at the museum this year.

    Sorry we didn't get to see it together. Next time you are in San Jose, give me a call. I live just up the road.

  3. Hey Leslie! I did not realize that but now I know. I'm like your former governor....I'll be back! xo, T

  4. Thank you for bringing this artwork to my attention. I was not familiar with this work. I am intrigued. I want to see that video! I dig this work and like you I say, "it works for me".

  5. Thank you for introducing their work to me. It comes across as quite compelling visually and in narrative.

  6. Thank you Christine and Karoda. I look forward to seeing how this duo grows.

  7. What an amazing show!!! I'm so happy I got to see it on the last day it was at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

    Would you be okay if I linked to this recap for my podcast shownotes. I make a reference to the show, but I don't see a recap anywhere apart from yours. I have links to A Bee and to the museum, but I was hoping to have one for this particular show.

  8. Hey WonderMike! Thank you for the support! I'd love to have you link to this post. Your pod casts look interesting and I'll be checking them out.

    The A Bee was excellent and I'm sure we will be seeing more of this duo's work.