Oct 9, 2014

art quilts galore at the Texas Quilt Museum

There are artists and there are collectors. Both of them make the world a better place.

Fortunately the art world has John Walsh, a passionate collector who has spent the past 20 years building a stunning collection of contemporary art quilts and at the same time, supporting the artists who make them.

Part of his collection is on view at the Texas Quilt Museum right now. And if you're lucky enough to be visiting this wonderful museum during International Quilt Festival, you'll have a chance to see this exhibition.
Texas Quilt Museum, La Grange, Texas
Last Saturday night, two fellow SAQA members and I drove to La Grange for the opening reception and to hear John speak about his collection and the art quilt themselves. He shared stories about each quilt and it was fascinating to hear these stories from the collector's perspective. Many of the quilts in his collection were commissioned and he gives the quilters complete free rein on what and how to create. A rare gift for sure!

He explained the definition of the typical art quilt - a three layered textile held together with stitching, of course. But then he went on to say, with art quilts, he often quotes his favorite George Gershwin ditty: "It ain't necessarily so!" Some of the art quilts are two layers. Some are pieced, but not quilted. Some are tops stitched and painted onto canvas. Some have embellishment and leather on the surface, even ceramics. At least one quilt in the collection weighs about 160 pounds!

The exhibition was curated by Sandra Sider. She was scheduled to speak as well, but unfortunately she had laryngitis.

I've seen several exhibitions at the Texas Quilt Museum over the past two years - this one may be the best one yet! The quilts are hung beautifully and every inch is filled with these rich works of art. It's a perfect showcase for the quilt world as tens of thousands of visitors descend on Houston in a few weeks for Festival and I hope a whole lot of you are able to make a trek out to La Grange.

In the meantime, here's a few websites and blogs of some of the artists whose work really stood out for me.

Susan Shie - she creates these whimsical, folk art scenes and then covers each piece with intricate tiny, tiny lines of text and stories. The writing looks like pen and ink, but is actually airbrushed. (This image is not the same one in the exhibition.)
Susan Shie, Sisters, or The True Story of Sisters on Diets, 2006.
Terry Hancock Mangat - her art quilts are dense layers of color and bold, painterly images, with plenty of unconventional materials incorporated into them. Hard to explain, very cool.
Terry Hancock Mangat, Water Quilt. 2009.
Anna Williams - 2 of her quilts are hanging in this collection. She is described in the book as the only artist in the collection without a formal art education. This self taught quilter pieced these lovely, off-kilter strips and pieces and created a modern artwork.  She worked her day job as a domestic and did all her sewing at night. The quilting was done by someone else, she only enjoyed creating the tops.

Here's an interesting blog post on Barbara Brackman's blog about Anna and her influence on Nancy Crow and many others over the years.

String Quilt Top
Anna Williams, String Quilt Top. 56 x 47 in
"Contemporary Art Quilts: The John M. Walsh III Collection" is available on Amazon. This thin, paperback book features parts of his collection (not all of these quilts are on view at the Texas Quilt Museum right now --- its actually a catalog from a previous exhibition). So, if you're looking for inspiration, this book is certain to give you a plethora of ideas and is a great addition to your quilt library.

link to Amazon


  1. Thank you for I troducing this collector...the book looks interesting.

    1. Marty you're welcome. The book is thin, but shows a great collection, as does the exhibit. I hope lots of people get to see it.