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Quilting rises from rumpled past

At two shows, admire quilts that are not quite quilts. Fondle them with gloved hands. Maybe even go home with a $5,900 specimen.

Published January 16, 2004

In years past, a quilt was a colorful but utilitarian bed covering made from scraps of cloth and heavy cotton ticking, with feed sacks stitched together for backing.

Not anymore.

Quilted items are often pure works of art, coveted by connoisseurs and fetching prices in the thousands of dollars.

A joint exhibit of work by many of Florida's finest quilter-artists is being held at Pasco Arts Center through Feb. 21 and at the library of Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey through Feb. 22.

"We sent out a call for quilters and artists in several newspapers and periodicals," said LaVeda Longfellow-Myers, an award-winning quilt artist and curator of the two shows. Notices also went to county art councils, quilters guilds and fabric stores that sell quilting materials. The artists were asked to send color slides of two of their works for consideration in the statewide juried show.

The response was nearly overwhelming.

"The slides filled several carousels," Longfellow-Myers said.

After hours of examining the entries, she chose 48 extraordinary pieces for the two shows.

"This was blind jurying," she said. "I had no idea where they were from or who had done them."

If an artist had special appeal, Longfellow-Myers requested more slides and more pieces. As a result, several of the artists have multiple examples of their work in the exhibit.

"We were looking for nontraditional pieces that somehow referenced quilting but weren't quite quilts," she said.

Tom Whitton's entry, for example, is a large piece of fabric with different paper products - embossed bags, corrugated board shredded into strips, packing bags stuffed with lightweight filler - stapled or pasted on the surface.

Whitton's other entry is made entirely of blue air-conditioner filters.

"These are works I execute solely from a fascination with a material, form or object," he wrote in his artist's statement.

Nationally known quilt artist, lecturer and historian Teddy Pruett has three entries, and two additional pieces exhibited in the small hallway at the Pasco Arts Center.

"I taught myself to quilt in 1974," she wrote in her resume. Classes weren't available at the time, "so I simply solved my own dilemmas . . . unaware that I was doing things all wrong."

When she finally began taking classes and struggling "to match seam lines and keep my points pointy," she wrote, "I realized I wasn't having fun anymore. In a great flash of insight, I decided that if I didn't have any rules, I couldn't do anything wrong."

She quit the lessons and began winning awards at major art quilt shows and judging other people's creations.

Her work is in high demand and is among the most imaginative and artistic in the show. (Don't miss The Arch in the Boneyard at the arts center.)

The quilts are so appealing that they beg to be touched and handled.

Unlike most art shows, touching is okay, but not until you don the rubber gloves supplied at both exhibits.

"That keeps the (body) oils and such off the quilts," said Sharon Adams, a graphic designer and assistant director of the Pasco Arts Center.

Many of the items in the show are for sale, with prices ranging from $285 for Mei-Ling St. Leger's Raw and Streaming Data to $8,000 for Pauline Salzman's Safe Haven? Salzman's Yard Tools, with stitches so small and close together that the fabric looks like corduroy, goes for $5,900. Hand-painted quilt stands are also for sale for $75.

Special events include a reception for the artists and presentation of awards from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Pasco Arts Center; and a gallery walk with the show's jurors at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Pasco Arts Center and at 1 p.m. that same day at PHCC.

On Feb. 7 and 8, the West Pasco Quilters' Guild will have its biennial quilt show, So Many Quilts, at Veterans Memorial Park on Hicks Road in Hudson.

At a glance

WHAT: Beyond the Bed: State of the Art quilt shows

WHERE: Pasco Arts Center, 5744 Moog Road, Holiday; also Pottberg Library at Pasco-Hernando Community College, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey

WHEN: Through Feb. 22. Arts center hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. PHCC library hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays

SPECIAL EVENTS: Reception for artists from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Pasco Arts Center; West Pasco Quilters' Guild show Sew Many Quilts 2004 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 7 and 8 at Veterans Memorial Park, 14333 Hicks Road, Hudson; gallery walk with show jurors Feb. 14 (10 a.m. at Pasco Arts Center; 1 p.m. at PHCC)

ADMISSION: Arts center and PHCC, no admission charge. Sew Many Quilts 2004, $5 adults, $3 kids 11 and younger.

[Last modified January 16, 2004, 01:33:00]

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