Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Tale of Two Banners


Prelude
Only recently have I come to full terms with the church's role in my spiritual life as well as my life as an artist.  The church was one of my first and only encounters with aesthetic beauty - in the order and seasonal colors of the liturgy, the banners, the stained glass windows, and the long history of music, dating all the way back to Johann Sebastian Bach.  It makes sense that my medium is quilts, the elements of which are fabric, piecing, color, composition.

Enough time has passed, I finally feel like I can finally tell this story.  In 1998, the same year I started my first quilt while living in Yountville, California, I returned to the Midwest, landing at my parents' house in Macomb, Illinois, a far cry from the Napa Valley.  Eventually I made an attempt at a Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology, getting as far as a post-baccalaureate (read: useless second Bachelor's degree) but I dropped out halfway through the first semester of the graduate program.  Throughout all this upheaval and general malcontent, I kept making quilts.   They were my peace, my joy, and my sanity.  I also volunteered to make two banners for my parents' church, Immanuel Lutheran.  The designs were mine, but inspired by and based on the work of Scottish architect, designer, water colourist and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  The two banners were each 3 feet wide by 12 feet high, designed to flank the altar. 

During this same time, I had been having private meetings with the church pastor in preparation for membership in the church - which seemed fairly redundant in light of my 2nd-8th grade St. James Lutheran Day School education in Quincy, Illinois; my Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) district-level church youth leadership position in high school; and a year of pre-seminary study at Concordia (Lutheran) College in River Forest, Illinois.  Didn't that make me Lutheran enough?  One of the pastor's pre-requisites for full membership, which would include my being welcome to take the sacrament of communion, was that I denounce my sexuality as a self-identified gay man.  Of course, there was some level of hair-splitting, like how I could "be" gay, I just couldn't "act" on it.  Well, I tried.  And I tried a little longer, and I finally realized how preposterous, impossible, and ridiculous such a request was, let alone any attempt to acquiesce to it.  Once I shared my conclusion with the pastor, he swiftly informed me that I was not welcome to be a member of the church, nor participate in the sacrament of communion - in this, the denomination, faith and doctrine deeply rooted in my own as well as my family's history.

And so the banners...which I'd been working on this whole time.  I was faced with a tough decision: abandon the nearly-finished project, or take the high road and complete them.  I came to realize that I wasn't making them for any particular church leader or denomination.  I was making them for a higher purpose, which was to glorify a Greater Mystery, and thereby inspire and speak to the higher self in anyone that might encounter my visual offering.  I am proud to say that the banners still hang at Immanuel Lutheran Church after twenty years.  Only recently did I receive a call from one of the members of the altar guild (who also happens to be my first cousin once removed, by marriage), inquiring as to how to make a minor repair to one of them.  Over the years, I have received numerous reports on how much the banners have meant to various members of the congregations.  I am sure the banners have witnessed numerous baptisms, weddings, and maybe even funerals. 

Postlude
Note: a few years later, the same pastor that had denied my membership in the church, made an Oral-Roberts-style public confession that he'd had some kind of unholy thoughts about a? some? all of? the young women in the college town he served (Immanuel Lutheran maintains both a town and gown church campus).  I think he took some kind of leave-of-absence along with his mea culpa, but according to the church website, he has served and still serves as pastor since 1997, just one year before my encounter with him. 


The Making of an Artist: Desire, Courage and Commitment, Kristin Congdon, Spring 2018



On a bitterly cold day in February of 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Krisitin Congdon at the Iowa State Museum in Des Moines, Iowa.  She was accompanied by Teresa Hollingsworth, my friend and co-curator of the show on view at the museum, The Sum of Many Parts, after it's year-long tour throughout China.  The exhibit had taken Teresa and me, along with four others, to Shanghai only a year earlier.  Teresa had mentioned my work to author Kristin Congdon, who later chose me, along with 3 other artists, for ethnographic chapters in her book, The Making of An Artist: Desire, Courage, and Commitment.  My chapter is featured as part of Congdon's exploration of commitment as it plays out in the lives of various artists, and is based on her in-depth interview with me in my Iowa City studio.

The book is a delightful and informative read.  It gave me welcome insight into the personal lives and struggles of some of my favorite artists.  Congdon's book transformed many of the quirks I'd formerly considered liabilities into what I now understand as assets.  The book helped reveal my very nature as an artist, and clarify traits I share with many other artists who have gone before me, and whose work inspires me.  I highly encourage any aspiring artists, or anyone interested in the lives of artists, to read the book.  I wish I'd had the luxury of reading it as an art student in the early 1990's at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  

Portrait Erick Wolfmeyer: des quilts autobiographiques, Quilt Country, Les Éditions de Saxe (France), Summer 2018

which includes a pattern of Smokehaus Rose (2010).





September 13-16, 2018, From the Artist's Collection; Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork, St Croix aux Mines, France, Septmeber 2018

photo credit: Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork

I am excited to have been invited to have a solo show at the 24th Annual Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, France.  I will be exhibiting nine quilts and presenting my video A Piece of Me on Saturday, September 15 at 2pm.  It is a great honor and I am looking forward to what will be my first solo show in Europe.  Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork takes place throughout five quaint villages in eastern France very near the German border.

As an adopted child, my inner life was full of fantasy and musing about my origins. I loved the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, especially the scene where Charlie blasts through a glass skylight in flight over terracotta rooftops of a German village.  The scene stirred my imagination, interest in my own German heritage, and my desire to someday see those very red rooftops myself.  In the subsequent 40 years I never made it to Europe, until now.  I can't help but believe that my solo exhibit at Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork is my own fantastic flight, a homecoming, and a childhood dream realized.  




Gewandhaus




A year ago, or so, I started envisioning architectural installation quilts - deconstructing and subverting the notion of what a quilt is, while simultaneously celebrating the convention of a quilt as comfort and shelter.  I believe place has an inevitable and indelible imprint on creativity and the forms of its expression.  I grew up surrounded the utility buildings that support Midwestern agriculture and I'm still inspired by those clean, no-nonsense shapes and lines.  
I hope to someday realize my Gewandhaus (cloth hall).   

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Artist Resume



Erick Wolfmeyer roots his work in the conventions of traditional quilt-making while he expands the visual and conceptual boundaries of the medium with each new piece.  The work celebrates the excavation of the soul through the work of his hands. 

EXHIBITIONS

2018
From the Artist's Collection (solo), Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, France

2017 
Rerum Novarum (solo), Pearson Lakes Art Center in Lake Okoboji, Iowa 
Quilted Expressions, Blanden Art Museum in Ft Dodge, Iowa 
Art Quilts of the Midwest 
   Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Iowa 

2016
   National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky 
   International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska

2015
Sum of Many Parts: Quiltmakers in Contemporary America 
   Crealde’ School of Art in Winter Park, Florida 
   The Foundry Art Centre in St Charles, Missouri 
   Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, South Carolina

2014
   Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska 
   Argenta Branch Library in North Little Rock, Arkansas 
   Washington County Museum in Portland, Oregon 
A Piece of Me, Catich Gallery, St Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa 
The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers in 21st-Century America
   State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa

2013
    Beijing Museum of Women and Children in Beijing, China 
   Wuhan Museum in Wuhan in Hunan Province, China 
   Dalian Modern Museum in Dalian in Liaoning Province, China 
   Guangxi Museum of Nationalities in Nanning, Guangxi Province, China 
   Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming in Yunnan Province, China 
   Shanghai Museum of Textile and Costume at Donghua University in Shanghai, China 

2012
Material Men: Innovation and the Art of Quilting, 
   Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner, Washington

2011
Quilters Guild of Dallas in Dallas, Texas 

2010
American Quilters Society Expo in Des Moines, Iowa

2007
Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco, California


PUBLICATIONS/MEDIA 

2018
"Erick Wolfmeyer: Des quilts autobiographiques,"Quilt Country, Les éditions de Saxe (France)
The Making of an Artist: Desire, Courage & Commitment, Kristin Congdon 

2017
Künstler-Porträt, Quilt- & Textilkunst Patchwork Professional (Germany), Dorothee Crane 

2015
Art Quilts of the Midwest, Linzee Kull-McCray

2014
The Buzz St Ambrose University newspaper, Brooke Schelly 
“Bent but Not Broken: Quilting in the Great Recession,” Quilters Newsletter, Mary Kate Karr-Petras

2013
Des Moines Register, Michael Morain 
“The Sum of Many Parts,” Quilters Newsletter, Mary Kate Karr-Petras 
Uppercase blog, Linzee Kull-McCray 

2012
Surface Design News, Luke Haynes 
The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers in 21st-Century America, catalog

2011
“Why You Should Know Him: Erick Wolfmeyer,” Iowa City Press-Citizen 
“Portrait: Erick Wolfmeyer,” Magic Patch (France), Linzee Kull-McCray 
“Art Talks with Bruce Carter,” radio interview WVIK, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois 

2010
Men and the Art of Quilting, Joe Cunningham 
“Unexpected Quilters Among Us,” The Quilt Life, Meg Cox 

2006
“Discoveries by Designers,” Architectural Digest

2001
“New and Noteworthy,” American Bungalow 


DELEGATE

2016
In Pursuit of the Creative Life: the Future of Creativity & the Arts in America 
National Endowment for the Arts, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC

2012
The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers in 21st-Century America
US Embassy in Beijing, China and US Embassy Consulate Office in Shanghai, China 


EDUCATION

1990
BFA Photography, Washington University in St Louis, Missouri 

CONTACT 

Collections List

2018
Monsoon - Bill & Marilyn VanKeppel, Kansas City, MO
Face of a Stranger - Blanden Art Museum, Ft. Dodge, IA

2017
Humans Race - Ronna De La Vergne, Everett, WA

2014

Map of the World - St Ambrose University, Davenport, IA

2013

Swim - Dr Joseph & Kineret Zabner, Iowa City, IA

2012

Venus Transit - Steve Kotsines & John Hecht, St Louis, MO

2011

Portmanteau - State Historical Museum of Iowa, Des Moines, IA

2010

Lincoln Log Cabin - Mary Blythe, Williamsburg, IA
Sink - Stephanie Brandenburg, Fairfax, IA
Rapture - University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Iowa City, IA

2009

Ellsworth - Terri Brady, Chicago 
Dogwood - private collection
Kirichigae - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Apogee - Frankie Holt & Michael Higgins, Los Angeles, CA

2008

Postlude - Patty Walsh-Bailey, Marengo, IA
Segue - private collection

2007

Home Sweet Home 3 - commission, private collection
Indian Spring - commission, Mary Sherwood Holt, Newport News, VA
Rain or Shine - private collection
Turning Point - private collection
Chromatopia - Grace Oh, San Francisco, CA
Kaleidoscope - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
What We Keep - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL

2006

Neckties - private collection
Spring Snow - private collection
Churn Dash - private collection
Summer Heat - Barbara Suomi, Princeton, NJ

2005

Flying Geese - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Nine Patch On-Point - private collection
Stars-n-Stripes - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL

2004

Color Story - private collection
Four-Point Stars - Mary Sherwood Holt, Newport News, VA

2003

Raindrops - Alison Uyehara, Honolulu, HI
Princess & the Pea - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Poor Man’s Cannonball - private collection
Home Sweet Home 2 - commission, Robert Riley, Champaign, IL

2002

Scappy Square - private collection
Snowball - commission, Christine Doehrmann, Williamsburg, IA
Mission Accomplished - private collection
Beige Squares - commission, Lynn & Mary Wolfmeyer, Macomb, IL

2001

Jewel Box Black - Brandon Township Library, Ortonville, MI

2000

Musical Notes - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Cinnamon & Spice - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Jewel Box Linen - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Saguaro Cactus Window - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL

1999

Nannie’s Nine Patch - Terri Brady, Chicago, IL
Isabel Mira - Sharmila Van Noesel, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

1998
Home Sweet Home - Rachel Leibowitz, Springfield, IL


Note: from 2001-2009 my quilts were sold through two retailers who, per policy, did not identify my collectors by name.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Quilts.com blogpost by Suzanne Labry, October 2017

 I enjoyed working with Suzanne Labry for her thoughtful Quilts.com blogpost about my work.

 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quiltfolk, Issue 02 - Iowa, 2017

I was pleased to spy a bit of my quilt Portmanteau in Michael McCormick's magazine Quiltfolk Issue 02 - Iowa.  Each issue of the magazine is less a periodical and more a luxurious book as the publication contains no advertisements.  My quilt is seen in the feature on the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Iowa.  Portmanteau was there for the exhibit Art Quilts of the Midwest, on loan from the permanent collection of the Iowa State Museum in Des Moines, Iowa.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quilt- & Textilkunst Patchwork Professional (German), March 2017


 
 
 
 
 
Here is the original transcript of the interview questions I answered:
 
Information About Me...
 
I am a 49 year old, single man living and working in Iowa City, Iowa USA. My full-time day job is as a dispatcher and field trip coordinator for the local school district's bus service. I started as a part-time school bus driver in 2007, but have worked as full-time office staff since 2010. It can be a very demanding and intense job while I am there, but one I can leave at the door and it affords me generous time off and a modest living. I have a dog, named Laffy Taffy, who I brought home with me from the local animal shelter nearly five years ago. She is a great companion and makes her home in my studio, which is what would otherwise be a living room for most, in my small 565 square-foot home. Built in 1900 as railroad lineman's cottage, it is only a few hundred feet from the railroad tracks that form the south end of my property line. My Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Photography from Washington University (1990) no doubt has significant influence over my approach to quilting, particularly to my understanding and use of color. My creative drive is both a contemporary necessity and the direct result of my lineage - as I continue to unwind the obfuscation of my biological heritage that resulted from my childhood adoption.

When and Why I Started...

I made my first quilt in 1998 while living in northern California and vacationing with friends in Sisters, Oregon. They'd just had their first child and I wanted to make him a quilt (he's now a freshman in college!). I bought my first pattern at the local quilt shop, which at the time I didn't realize is well known for its annual outdoor quilt festival. My then-boyfriend back in California showed me the basics of sewing and I was on my way. I hand-quilted it myself along with most of my early work, but quickly realized I could not continue to both make tops and hand quilt them myself. Over the years, I was fortunate to find and develop critically important relationships with two different hand-quilting brokers who take my quilt tops, batting and backing and then distribute them to hand quilters. Initially my work was quilted by traditional quilting bees - groups of women who met in church basements in northern Iowa and quilted together to raise money for benevolent purposes. Now, my quilts are all sent to a Mennonite broker in northern Indiana. Once received, she calls me to discuss quilting specifics, then she sends them on to be single-needle hand-quilted by one of her cadre of rural Amish women who ask to remain anonymous according to their own cultural traditions and strictures. I am dedicated to the tradition of hand-quilting. If I were unable to get my work hand-quilted by others, I would either hand-quilt it myself, change my approach altogether, or maybe just quit. All this to politely say I am not a fan of machine quilting. It has its place, and I too have lightly and simply machine quilted small pieces I knew would be used and washed repeatedly. However, so much of the machine quilting I see is what the head curator of one of America's major quilt museums once quipped to me, "tortured fabric." Machine quilting can completely alter the very nature of all the wonderful qualities of fabric - the way it breathes, drapes, hangs - it's gentle supple fluidity. I know this is not a popular thing to say, but I'm not interested in being some kind of quilt celebrity, touting this or that product or riding on the novelty of my gender - I am interested in quilts purely as an art form. I started quilting mostly as a curiosity, but continued quilting as a poultice for a very poor decision to return to graduate school and live with my parents in my early 30's to save money. It was a disaster and quilting gave me my only shred of sanity. I eventually moved to Iowa in 2001 (where my hand quilters were at the time) got a full-time job in retail, and continued making quilts. I sold my first quilts that same year, much to my astonishment, and have been making (and selling) them ever since. I do not, nor do I aim to make a living from my quilts. It is purely an avocational endeavor. It is, for me, a kind of spiritual practice. I find the act of sewing - the repetitive nature of it - soothing. If art were my religion, color and geometry would be my theology and sewing my prayer and meditation. I have, however, been very fortunate to sell the majority of my work, which has provided the means to continue making more quilts. I am always humbled, shocked and amazed when I sell a piece, and assume it will be the last piece I ever sell. For about ten years I sold at a nearby annual quilt show in the small town of Kalona, Iowa (known for its large Amish population) as well as at a local retail shop that specialized in selling antique as well as new quilts. Now, I sell directly to collectors upon their expressed interest in my work. I have all my quilts professionally appraised by an American Quilt Society (AQS)-certified quilt appraiser in St. Louis, Missouri. She has become a close friend and represents a significant turn in my quilt career by having helped me understand the value of my work. I am most intimately and deeply engaged with the process of making the quilts and am not especially attached to them once completed. In fact, they are somewhat of a burden to store in my small home. I store them rolled up on batting-wrapped PVC pipe and then covered with muslin drawstring bags made by a friend's daughter. I am always elated to sell them and see them go to the right home. My quilts have a whole life of their own, once created. Some hang in friend's homes, some have travelled museums all over the US and China, others hang as part of public (library, museum) and private collections. It's very humbly gratifying to know my work is so meaningful and of interest to others.

What I am Up to at the Moment...

At the time of this interview, I currently have quilts in two exhibits in Iowa. Three of my quilts, including the debut of my 2016 self portrait quilt, Face of A Stranger, are featured in a group show with two women quilt artists at the Blanden Art Museum in Ft. Dodge, Iowa. The second exhibit features my quilt Portmanteau from Linzee Kull McCray's book turned exhibit, Art Quilts of the Midwest, currently at the new Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Iowa. Portmanteau also toured six museums in China throughout 2012 with a US Embassy-sponsored exhibit, The Sum of Many Parts: 25 Quiltmakers in 21-st Century America. I was fortunate enough to be one of two quilters invited to go to Shanghai for the opening and ten days of educational outreach. I will also be one of eight international artists featured in The Making of An Artist: Character, Culture and Circumstance, by Kristin Congdon, slated to be released Spring 2017. My only regret about that book is that it will contain some inadvertent misinformation about my story, as I only recently began to learn the truth of my paternity, via DNA testing. Perhaps I will get another opportunity to someday fully tell my story with the truth as I know it at that time. I have learned that all of our lives are so much more fiction than we realize, and what I want more than stories, is the truth. Quilt-making is my truth. My work contains my authentic life over the span of months or in some cases, years it takes to complete a quilt. After finishing my 6 x 8 foot self portrait quilt Face of A Stranger (2016), I moved on to creating large-scale, colossal quilts (~8 x 24 feet). The fist one, Cross Quarter Embrace, is currently being hand-quilted. I plan to debut it at my first solo show late Summer 2017 at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa. The piece will have taken almost three years from conception to completion and explores the desires and tensions around forming human bonds. The quilt, as has been the case with other pieces of mine, proved to be somewhat prophetic as during its creation, my birthmother reappeared in my life unexpectedly after a 23-year absence, I spent some time with her last summer at her home in southern California, and before the quilt's completion she was once again estranged. The quilt becomes a sarcophagus of sorts for early childhood loss and ongoing emotional trauma, for those that pass in and out of our lives, as well as uncertainty, hope and optimism for the future. I am one 33" square away from completion of my second colossal-scale quilt, Dreamer. It is made of 33" tone-on-tone one-inch strip concentric squares. There are 27 squares altogether, made mostly of fabric from my modest-by-most-standards fabric collection, arranged three high and nine wide. The title, Dreamer, is a reference to dreaming of a warm, colorful desert in the midst of the bleak Midwestern winter, but also contains reference to America's struggle with immigration policy. I have a proposed commission to address after this piece is completed, and no shortage of other large-scale works I'd like to see to completion. Most all of my ideas come from the question: "what if?." Sometimes I have an oblique vision of a quilt while doing some mundane household task. Often the why's of any particular piece are too personal to share and mostly it's simply for the satisfaction of seeing an idea come to its fruition, and all the concomitant joys therein. All of my work is in some way my ongoing attempt to answer three of life's most basic questions: Where did I come from? Who am I? and Where am I Going?

My Plans for the Future...

In this political climate, who can say? Now, more than ever, it seems imperative to continue to create and bring truth, joy and light into the world. And, it has also become all the more difficult. Because I fund all of my work from my own modest income, finances can be a barrier for thinking too far into the future and too boldly. The colossal quilts are, not surprisingly, quite expensive to create, but my hope is they might be the entree into more art museums where the work can be viewed critically shoulder-to-shoulder with other fine art. I am not in competition with anyone other than my own goals and ambitions, and I try to keep them in check with a large, regular dose of humility. I have at least two (or more) colossal quilts I'd like to complete, all part of my concentric square theme/obsession. Each piece always leads to ideas for the next, or often several more. There's so much time to think, dream and process while making a quilt - I have more than one lifetime of ideas. It's the pull to start on the next piece that often gets me through some of the tedium of making the current one. If I am fortunate enough to continue working into old age, as I would hope to do - no matter what the specifics - I would like to continually challenge the boundaries of the medium and expand the exhibition of my work. Perhaps it is all hubris and folly - I will likely never be satisfied by any such end results since the truest satisfaction comes from simply making the quilt.

Summer Applesauce

Every year around my birthday (July 10), I attempt to find what we used to call "summer apples," typically a Lodi.  This year I found them at Stringtown, an Amish grocery just north of Kalona, Iowa.  The apples are yellow-green in color and are much more tangy than fall apples.  My paternal grandmother, Nannie, was known for her cooking.  Her house always smelled of something delicious.  Nannie and Papa raised chickens and had a "summer apple" tree that grew up over the chicken house.  The chicken egg yolks became the best homemade noodles ever, and the egg whites, Angel Food cake.  The fallen apples provided a nice treat for the chickens.  Every summer I looked forward to Nannie's summer applesauce and count it as one of my all-time favorite foods.  It's easy to make.  The only special equipment required is a food mill.  I found mine as a freebie give-away on someone's curb at just the time I was looking for one to make applesauce.  Ah, serendipity!
 
wash about five pounds of Lodi apples
cut and core, do not peel
toss apple slices in cold water to prevent browning
bring to boil with just enough water so apples don't stick to bottom of pan -
it takes surprisingly little - do not overdo on the water - cook until soft
use food mill to process apples (peel still on) into large mixing bowl
add sugar to your preference - I usually use 1 cup
chill and enjoy - I like to freeze small tubs to enjoy in the dead of winter,
if I can wait that long to eat it...(I usually can't - hey, it was a nice idea!)