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Contemporary fiber art featured in new Mercyhurst exhibit

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Using the chain stitch as inspiration, Pittsburgh fiber/quilt artist Tina Williams Brewer began a chain bringing together contemporary fiber artists for an exhibition of quilts and fiber art that engage contemporary themes and issues. “Stitches: Contemporary Fiber Art Show” will be on display in the Cummings Gallery at Mercyhurst University Nov. 9 through Jan. 3, 2016.

Participating artists include Allyson Allen, Alice Beasley, Tina Williams Brewer, Jane Burch Cochran, Carolyn Carson, Marion Coleman and Penny Mateer.

Brewer, who juried the show, will speak about her artwork on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m. in Zurn Hall 114. An artist reception will follow in the gallery from 2 to 4 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Tina Williams Brewer is known for her artistic exploration of African American history and the personal experiences associated with it. She uses symbolism and hand-textured fibers to create story quilts that are motivated by issues focusing on the family, women, children and values and spirituality.

Her work has been displayed in locations from the United States Embassy in Ghana to the American Craft Museum in New York City. She has been exhibited in more than 50 major venues in the United States and is sought-after for lectures, workshops and other creative ventures.

A graduate of Columbus College of Art and Design, she is a member of the Fiber Arts Guild and the Women of Visions, a board member of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts/Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and an emeritus board member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. She was honored with the 2009 award for Volunteer in the Arts and has been named a Lifetime Achievement Artist by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Allyson Allen uses traditional materials to create unique, dimensional textile art, quilts, dolls and handmade books.

A former high school English and special education teacher, she has been teaching quilting and doll-making through state-funded programs in public and private schools for more than 20 years. She also teaches at quilt shows and quilt retreats, for quilt guilds, and on multi-guild quilt cruises. Her work has been commissioned by entertainers, dignitaries and organizations across the country and exhibited throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe and Africa.

Allen has received multiple California Arts Council grant awards, was twice nominated for NEA National Heritage Fellowship consideration, and has been recognized for more than a decade as an award-winning Master African American Quilt and Doll Artist by the state of California. She is a special exhibitor, lecturer and instructor for Mancuso National Quilt Shows.

Alice Beasley is a self-taught artist who began making portraits of people and objects in 1988. As a portrait artist who works in fiber, Beasley utilizes the basic techniques of quilting: taking small pieces of many different fabrics and sewing them together to make a composition.

“My focus is primarily on the human figure and the intricate web that plays out as we bob and weave in community with each other. The result is sometimes playful, often deadly serious,” she said. “Regardless of subject matter, everything is done with the same goal: to put a little piece of my soul on the wall that you might see what my mind sees.”

Beasley’s work has been exhibited in venues throughout the United States, including the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum, as well as abroad in Spain, France, Namibia and Japan.

Jane Burch Cochran attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and the Cincinnati Art Academy. In my art quilts, I try to combine my art training in painting, my love of fabric and the tradition of American quilting. I unconsciously combine the loose, free feeling of abstract painting with the time-consuming and controlled techniques of sewing and beading,” she said.

She has participated in numerous one-person shows and invitational exhibits, and her works are included in the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of American Quilters Society Permanent Collection in Paducah, Kentucky, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

She has received awards including the Quilter's Newsletter's top 100 quilts of the century, 1999; the Jurors' Award of Merit in the Quilt National '95;, and a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Fellowship, 1993. Her work has appeared in numerous books, catalogs, and magazine and newspaper articles.

Carolyn Carson says two themes run through her life: the love of textiles and the history of women. As a young mother, she rekindled a childhood interest in sewing and learned to quilt, frequently coloring outside the lines to design her own patterns. This new passion sparked a deep interest in the lives of early American quilters, which in turn led to graduate school. Carson received her Ph.D. in history and policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 and began her academic career at the University of Pittsburgh, where she continues to teach urban studies.

Once settled into that role, Carson felt compelled to work with fiber once again, embarking on a journey of exploration and discovery that has absorbed her for many years and includes many juried exhibitions and commissions.

“My technique reflects women’s work and my subject matter often deals with issues that pertain to women. Using abstract female imagery, or life and fertility symbols such as circles and spirals, I urge the viewer to relate in his/her own personal way without focusing on particular issues,” she said.

Marion Coleman’s work is inspired by people, history and social/cultural events and their impact on our individual and community relationships. Her work explores traditional and contemporary techniques related to quilting and fiber collage with an interest in narrative projects using technology combined with vintage and found materials.

Her work has been exhibited in the United States and internationally and she has work featured in several publications including O, The Oprah Magazine, Patchwork Tsushin, Textile Forum, 500 Art Quilts, and Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Obama.

She has several public art commissions around the San Francisco Bay Area and in 2013 was one of 23 artists statewide who received a Center for Cultural Innovations grant in the craft category. She and Hayward Historical Society were awarded a Cal Humanities grant in winter 2013 for their collaboration on Stitching Russell City Stories. She and two other artists received a Creative Workfund grant in 2007 for their collaboration with Bay Area Black United Fund for a series of quilts about African American health disparities. In 2009 she received an Alameda County Arts Leadership award.

Penny Mateer is an award-winning artist whose work has been exhibited nationally, including The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, the Society for Contemporary Crafts, Sandra J. Blain Gallery at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and Woman Made Gallery. Her work was selected for a solo exhibition in the prestigious World of Threads Festival in Toronto, Ontario.

She has received numerous awards from the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Pittsburgh Public School system and she was co-director of Knit the Bridge, a community-made public fiber art installation on Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Bridge. Now a full-time studio artist in Pittsburgh, she graduated with an M.S.W. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988 after receiving a B.A. from Hampshire College.

“I am inspired by the use of pattern in quilting and the decorative needle arts and honor the tradition of stitching often thought of as ‘women’s work,’” she said. “Drawing from this rich and shared history of creating functional objects intended to provide warmth and comfort, I use the medium as a platform to present ideas about current events.”

Cummings Gallery is located in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center and is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 2 to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed Nov. 23-29 for Thanksgiving break and will be open by appointment only Dec. 19-Jan. 13 (except Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan.1).

Call 824-2092 or email for more information or to schedule an appointment.


PHOTO: Face 2, embellished art quilt, 25" x 20"
Jane Burch Cochran