New gallery exhibit gives visitors something to talk about
By Matthew Skog
Artists Bonnie Hull and Kay Worthington have been friends for decades.
Their latest collaborative exhibit, Still Talking, is the product of their shared love of quilt making.
“What you’re seeing here is twelve quilts from each of us,” Hull said. “All made since January, and all hand quilted. It’s true that hand quilting is a little bit like playing solitaire: it’s obsessive-compulsive. Once you get going you just forget that you’re supposed to go to bed or make dinner.”
Collaboration is a key element in their work. For this exhibit, Hull and Worthington picked themes together and then worked individually to create their own quilts based on that common theme.
“The first quilt that Kay had made already was the one called Family Game Night, so we went with that as our first theme,” Hull said. “So I looked at game boards like Chutes and Ladders. That’s the one I eventually chose.
“We had a lot of other ideas, some of which we did, and some of which we didn’t. Maps – we didn’t do that. Song lyrics – we did do that. Chairs – we did do. Kay was particularly interested in Paul Klee. You’ll see her Paul Klee quilts with the paintings she chose to base them on here. They’re quite gorgeous.”
Hull and Worthington believe that their mutual interest in quilt making is a natural progression from other mediums they enjoy.
“Quilting, I’m not sure why I only started it in 2007,” Worthington said. “I don’t know where it was the rest of my life. I’ve always put things together. I’ve always been a collage artist. I’ve sown paper. I’ve always done the kind of composition that quilting is, only I never did it with cloth. It was Bonnie who one day showed me this quilt and I went ‘oh my god.’”
“We both particularly like hand quilting, and we both like the almost embroidery method of it,” Hull said. “Maybe because we’re both two-dimensional artists. We like to draw. We’re painters. Stitching is really just drawing in thread.
“After maybe her second or third quilt, Kay said to me ‘this is the work I was meant to do.’”
Both Hull and Worthington prefer the use of reclaimed or recycled materials in their work.
“We both love to go junking,” Worthington said. “We’ve both done it all of our lives. And now we go looking for used fabrics. We’re thinking about doing something with all recycled materials.”
“That is pretty inspirational to both Kay and I,” Hull said. “We’re going to head a bit into that direction. I think it’ll provide some even more unconventional work than what you’re seeing here today. That’s really where we’re heading.”
Worthington said that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places.
“The other thing about this show that I think is good for students to realize is where ideas come from,” she said. “A lot of my ideas come from things people say around me. Lately my granddaughter has really inspired a lot of weird little ideas. We as artists take ideas from other people, and that’s really OK. What you see around you – that sort of inspiration. Once you tune into that channel of listening to what people are saying or what you see, then ideas appear.”
Worthington encourages young artists to believe in themselves.
“I can remember times in my life where I thought to myself ‘OK, that’s the last piece of art I’m going to do. I don’t have one more idea,’” she said. “And really, I did that a lot. I had kind of an angst filled younger life. I would just lose confidence in myself and I would move onto something else and say ‘I’m not really an artist, that was just a fluke.’ So if you’re one of those, don’t despair.”
Hull hopes that Still Talking will make visitors reconsider preconceived notions about quilt making and art as a whole.
“I think if you have in mind quilts as being traditional things, what this show really shows you is that anything is possible and there are no rules,” she said. “There are no rules in art, and there are no rules in quilting. Just go for it.”
Still Talking will be on display until Oct. 28 in the Gretchen Schuette Art Gallery in Bldg. 3.