'For an art or contemporary quilt maker, getting into Quilt National is like going to the Olympics or the Academy Awards. To have your work accepted into this prestigious biennial show is a very BIG DEAL in an art quilter’s career. The entry requirements for this show are stiff and the competition is fierce. Many nationally known, award-winning quilt makers have not gotten a quilt accepted into Quilt National. Unlike a traditional quilt show, this show is about work that is stretching the boundaries of quilt making. The judges focus on artistic expression, not stitch length. The goal of this show is to elevate art quilts to the level of ART—period—end of sentence. Just to be clear, the quilts juried into this show are art—first—and quilts—second. The criteria for acceptance into this show is equal to that of an art show featuring oil paintings, watercolors and sculpture. The shows’ success hinges on the quilts featured being recognized within the art community as art.
Quilt National’s mission focuses on expanding the boundaries of quilt making—in all aspects—from construction to materials. The artists featured in their show push the limits of quilt making. These amazing creations, along with stringent judging criteria force the art community to recognize quilting as a legitimate art form. This recognition not only helps the quilt artist—but all quilters. That’s why this show is SO important. The artists showcased at Quilt National are pioneers. They are changing the way the art community looks at quilts and quilt making. They are at the forefront of quilts being accepted as art—not craft. This is a VERY BIG DEAL for every quilt maker, from traditional to contemporary.'
Visitors' comments from QN 09
"I've been swimming in possibilities since going to Athens OH this summer for Quilt National 2009. Anne Smith won Best of Show with Calon Lan. I think of myself as progressive, but even so, I struggled with this quilt being selected as THE VERY BEST of show. I was excited to listen to the jurors speak about their choice, thinking I'd come to a clear understanding. But even they seemed to lack the words to specify exactly why this was the best. They made references to it being experimental and also encompassing all the different ways one goes about quilting."
"I went back to see Anne Smith's quilt at the Dairy Barn at least 3 times during my visit. And I can't tell you how many times since Athens I've opened "The Best Contemporary Quilts: Quilt National 2009" published by Lark Books, to gaze at this piece that at one moment looks like a distorted stuffed animal, and another a worn set of bedsheets that have been sewn on by an unpracticed old aunt or small child. Yet it is intriguing to study. With the lack of a clear subject matter and its very disciplined palette, I found myself following the stitching and the swirls in the reds and pinks and noticing the whimsical way fading flowers float in and out of the composition."
"The quilt which won "Best of Show" created the most buzz. Most everyone was wondering "WHY?" In fact, the woman at the desk pointed us, and a number of other visitors to the book where the judges had written a statement as to why. Certainly, they would have had a hard time to my mind to chose a "best of show", but the judges said that Anne Smith's "Calon Lan" was a shoe in because they kept on returning to it. They marked it's simplicity and directness."
Best of Show, Quilt National 2009: Calon Lân by Anne Smith
Judges' Statement written by Sue Benner
The image lit up the screen, the HD TV screen. A lyrical interplay of white and red, the quilt by artist Anne Smith, Calon Lân, sang out clear and true. All three of us, Quilt National 2009 jurors Katie Pasquini-Masopust, Ned Wert, and I, came back to this work, time after time with new appreciation for its captivating beauty.
At the time of jurying, we had no knowledge of the title’s significance, no artist’s statement to read, only the digital slide, a detail, and a description of the materials and techniques used.
This work called us back, and we explored the richness of the red and the purity of the white. The quilt was a quilt—hand-stitched, assembled fabric, and the quilt was art.
Now, after having the experience of seeing this work in person at Quilt National and reading the artist’s statement, I have another level of appreciation for Calon Lân.
I see this quilt as truthful, in its materials and its meaning.
The color palette is limited but used expansively. Smith blends shades and tints of red, white, with a bit of yellow and a hint of aqua.
The fabrics are recycled, almost humble, and are masterfully placed. At the bottom edge there are drips of paint or dye, which made me re-examine the rest of the work for these subtle adjustments. The hand stitching and embroidery act as drawing lines and serve to “mend” the work at the same time.
The composition is curious, almost unlikely. It is a dance of shapes with the right side being mostly red, the left predominantly white or light in value. A large central rounded red shape is of importance. Red is a loaded color--red is power, red is courage, blood is red. Delicate scallops of red are drawn in the light areas with a lovely tenderness. The white areas read as light shining through the image, pure, dazzling light. Delicate tints of pink and coral soften the weight of the deep red.
The image is ambiguous: is this a heart, or a flower or something completely different? As I start to make sense of it all, the image coalesces, and then disintegrates—a modern abstraction.
It is almost a cliché in our medium to say, the image is “painted with fabric.” But I think it is worth saying here. The use of the fabrics has all the subtleties of blended paint, yet I never forget that it is fabric, layered, assembled, and stitched. Old-fashioned and modern: fabric as fabric, fabric as paint.
Anne Smith says of her quilt:
“The old Welsh hymn ‘Calon Lân’ sings of a pure heart. This quilt is a celebration of contented times, everyday blessings, and simple gifts.”
So now, thanks to Wikipedia, here are the translated words of Calon Lân.
I don't ask for a luxurious life, the world's gold or its fine pearls,
I ask for a happy heart, an honest heart, a pure heart.
If I wished for worldly wealth, it would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart, Will bear eternal profit.