Barbara I.

I’m using another artist’s interpretation of the theme, “Fire, Water, Earth, and Air” from the exhibit “The Classical Elements in Fiber and Poetry” to demonstrate focal point. With her permission, Gail Sims shares with us her interpretation of the Navajo culture applied to this theme. All four quilts have vertical and horizontal elements, but the main attribute is repetition as you can see the turtles in graduated sizes moving up the quilt. She also uses isolation, as well as bright colors against muted background colors (sometimes complementary) to make the turtles “pop.”

An art quilt legend, Yvonne Porcella, passed away February 13th. I have been pouring over her gallery of quilts and wanted to highlight a couple of them. The first is “Takoage,” made in 1980, and I believe it was her first art quilt. It now hangs in the Smithsonian. I initially chose it because I didn’t immediately see a focal point. However, when I saw it as a thumbnail, the yellow bars near the center were very obvious. Yellow is repeated in a few other bars, and there are lots of triangles and squares. I think you could also make a case for vertical and horizontal elements, but they don’t literally point to the yellow bars. I’m curious what others might think.

“Monkey Sighting” is another piece by Yvonne Porcella, 2003. Again, it is quite abstract, but the red/orange “checkmark” almost screams that the yellow rectangle is the focal point – or is it the checkmark? Where is the monkey?????? Does anyone see a deconstructed monkey wrench block? The use of black/white checks to outline the yellow square seem to be reflecting the horizontal/vertical element – and force our eyes to stop and focus on that element. I’m sure there is a story behind this quilt. As an extraordinary teacher, Yvonne gave me (all of us) permission to use bright colors and ignore rules of traditional quilting. I will miss her.

I started taking the magazine, Quilting Arts, when it was first published in 2001. It is still going strong 15 years later (and I might have all 79 issues…). To demonstrate that hoarding magazines is useful, I chose one of the quilts from the third issue called “Moonrise” by Deanna Hartman. I think the human form in the lower right quadrant is the focal point, and I interpret it as female. The bright red form could be a nod to reproduction and is the star of the focal point. Straight lines contrast with curves, plus the beading and writing provide a sense of movement. Those elements, as well as the moonbeams, point to or outline the focal point.

“Crepuscular Flash,” by Judy Coates Perez, appeared in Quilting Art Issue #78. The gold line dividing the sea and sky is the focal point with dark blue and red / yellow on either side.

“The Dreamer,” by Maira Stoller, is from the current issue of Quilting Arts (#79), which is devoted to portraits. The focal point for me is the face, and especially the eyes with just that small bit of white bringing them to the viewer’s attention. I’m also wondering if isolation could be considered to help identify the face as the focal point? The horizontal matchstick quilting also contrasts with the curving outline quilting used to separate the human from the more abstract left side of the quilt.

This final piece is my first success using layers in Photoshop. The X-Ray shows a washer lodged in the throat of a young boy (my grandson). It is the bright spot against the darker shades, a definite focal point. Rather than just post the X-Ray, I thought that Dr. Groucho might add a touch of whimsy……… I have stayed up too late.