A Pattern Language: Michelle Grabner, Angie Wilson, and Lena Wolff

Shotgun Review

A Pattern Language: Michelle Grabner, Angie Wilson, and Lena Wolff

By Shotgun Reviews July 26, 2014

As someone who is relatively new to visiting art galleries, my familiarity with quilting immediately ignited memories of home and family, creating a sense of ease while viewing CULT’s current exhibition, A Pattern Language: Michelle Grabner, Angie Wilson, and Lena Wolff. The use of traditional patterns and motifs found in quilting, such as mandalas and stars, combined with the use of unconventional materials, such as paper and undergarments, constructs conversations around themes of gender, home, labor, and community in the exhibition.

Lena Wolff. O San Francisco, 2014; paper quilt with hand-cut and painted papers; 45 x 45 in. Courtesy of the Artist and CULT: Aimee Friberg Exhibitions, San Francisco.

Lena Wolff’s O San Francisco (2014) is a symmetrical paper quilt crafted from hand-cut pieces of paper squares, each painted with a red cross. Clean and uniform, the red crosses are precise, while the squares themselves are attached, slightly unevenly, to the quilt’s base. Individual crosses contain the handwritten names of artists or cultural organizations that have played a role in shaping the city’s unique character. United by a common crisis, the organizations listed are spaces that have been absent from the city for many years, recently disappeared, or are currently struggling to stay open. The red crosses are a reminder of what is at risk of being lost because of Silicon Valley’s expansion into San Francisco.

Angie Wilson utilizes the familiar double-wedding-ring pattern in Traditional Queer Double Wedding Ring Quilt (2009), but rather than quilting with traditional fabrics, she uses a spectrum of white to red women’s undergarments in lace, silk, and cotton. Using non-uniform stitching to piece together the fabric, Wilson employs a technique reminiscent of what is called “crazy quilting,” which means the quilt does not follow a pattern—the stitching can be done freely, and fabric can be of different sizes, colors, textures, and prints. Just as characteristics of crazy quilting are integrated seamlessly into a more traditional technique, the title also gestures toward the integration of marriage equality into society.

Angie Wilson. Traditional Queer Double Wedding Ring Quilt, 2009; repurposed garments, fabric, and thread; 60 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and CULT: Aimee Friberg Exhibitions, San Francisco.

Neither inviting nor comforting, the pristine white walls and concrete floors of most galleries induce feelings of anxiety for me. However, the artworks exhibited in A Pattern Language create an instant connection with memories of my quilter mother mapping out patterns and fabrics for her next project at her sewing desk. Quilts are for warmth and comfort, but they also communicate a story. Although quilt making has taken on a new meaning in A Pattern Language, the same care and love my mother exacts in the making of her quilts is stitched into the familiar motifs present in those created by the artists, and in each stitch, a piece of a story waits to be told.

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Deidre Foley, a San Francisco writer, was an EHSS Summer 2014 Intern for Art Practical. She will attend the University of San Francisco in the fall.

A Pattern Language is on view at CULT | Aimee Friberg Exhibitions, in San Francisco, through August 2, 2014.

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