Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Tiferet/Acceptance; 10”H X 14”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing 2020

Art is an act of the soul, not the intellect. When we are dealing with people’s dreams – their visions, really – we are in the realm of the sacred. We are involved with forces and energies larger than our own. We are engaged in a sacred transaction of which we know only a little: the shadow, not the shape.

Julia Cameron

Increasing my skills was important to pay the bills but it was not enough to secure my mounting desire to be a legitimate fine artist. Having no formal art education, I invented my own rigorous contemporary arts curriculum based on studies from a high school art history class.

I began reading contemporary art magazines cover to cover. I organized visual images from them into a series of notebooks for inspiration. I sought out contemporary art collections in my travels. I explored the works from the permanent collection at the Carnegie and its International Biennials. I studied color via Joseph Albers, fiberart via Sheila Hicks, contemporary art via Frank Stella, feminist art via Barbara Kruger, self-referencing via Cindy Sherman, installations via Ann Hamilton; to name just a few of my favorites.

Somehow, I decided that to be considered a serious artist, I would have to have a one-person exhibition. There were very few places in Pittsburgh to accomplish this, but one possibility was the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) gallery, then at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA). I set in motion a plan to jury into AAP and apply for a gallery show. I successfully accepted into the organization and was granted the one-person gallery exhibition in 2 ½ years, for July,1987.

To create a related body of work, I settled on what seemed like a liberating idea: to break out of the basic quilter’s block. I started with an odd sized rectangle 6” X 36” and with each additional artwork, moved beyond it. I varied the block’s size; I gave the block three dimensions; I made multiple varied blocks in one piece; I took away the background; I changed the point of view; I turned the blocks into buildings; I added trees; I made ceiling and floor quilts; and finally three-dimensional objects.

The third in the series was a king-size bed quilt of three-dimensional shapes and the shadows reflected from them. The preeminent international quilt competition of the day was Quilt National (QN) in Athens, Ohio. This quilt seemed complex enough to be QN worthy. It’s time-frame conflict with my exhibition, but I decided I would forego including it, if it was accepted to QN. It was.

I had accomplished every one of my goals for this monumental first exhibit, including being accepted into Quilt National, but sadly, instead of feeling satisfied with the accomplishment, I was depressed and disappointed. I felt inadequate and frustrated. It simply wasn’t good enough to have a single one-person exhibition. In the end it was only a tiny step along the path of being a successful artist and I felt like I had a long way to go.

Published by SilkQuilt

Pittsburgh-based fiber artist, Louise Silk, creates art that combines aesthetics and functionality with meaning and memories. From the influence of a 1972 MS Magazine article to the current SILKDENIM label, her quilt experiences culminate in a display of her particular capacity to use her patchwork skills to piece together just about anything into an aesthetic meaningful whole.

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