Friday, October 6, 2017 blogpost by Suzanne Labry, October 2017

 I enjoyed working with Suzanne Labry for her thoughtful 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!)

Friday, May 12, 2017

August 31-October 15, 2017, Rerum Novarum; Monte Pearson Gallery, Pearson Lakes Art Center, Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Pearson Lakes Art Center, Lake Okoboji, Iowa

I have the pleasure of working with the PLAC on my first solo show, Rerum Novarum (of new things).  I will exhibit a total of 8 quilts, 4 of which have never been publicly exhibited, including the  debut of Poppy Field (8'x21' colossal-scale quilt).  The exhibit will also include my 6'x8' self portrait Face of a Stranger
Opening & artist talk: Thursday August 31, 2017 5-7pm.

The Monte Pearson gallery is a beautiful space for the Rerum Novarum exhibit.  I am inspired by the namesake's hand-written statement which is posted just inside the gallery:

"It will be the artists who lead the final revolution - a revolution within each person's soul - until we realize that freedom is not something which is fought for, but something which is found in trusting and loving - as we trust and love each other - we've all got to find that freedom within ourselves to create - to tell them all - let them see the masterpieces of man - and realize what they (each one) holds within himself...we must break down the barriers not by fighting or even by education...  Understanding is all it takes - It is the artists who have lived the longest - for they show the human heart and that is what lasts the longest."             
                                                                                             -Monte Pearson, May 18, 1970

 I could not have put this show together without two of my best friends, 
Frankie Holt (left) and Greg Cotton (right).  It took us 7 hours to hang and light the show!  
Special thanks to Greg who braved the heights on the ladder!
Rerum Novarum (of new things) Artist Statement:

Making art is a privilege, one to which I have dedicated the past 20 years.  I use conventional construction methods to produce unconventional quilts, challenging the line between craft and art.  I welcome self-imposed limits as a disciplined path to explore infinite possibilities within the medium.  All of my work is completed in a 12 x 12 foot studio in my 565 square-foot home.  I could not complete my quilts without collaborative assistance from anonymous (by tradition) Amish hand-quilters.  I am deeply committed to sustaining the art of hand-quilting and eternally grateful to the earnest labor of women I will likely never meet, but whose stitches animate my work.

After completing Face of a Stranger, a 6 x 8 foot self-portrait made of nearly 7,000 one inch pieces, my next project continued to push the boundaries of the medium in both size and content. Poppy Field is intended to be the first in a series of large-scale quilts. At 7.5 x 21 feet it subverts the very notion of a quilt. Billboard proportions aim to deliver a confrontational, immersive, fugue-like visual experience for the viewer. Encoded within the compositional layers of the abstract geometric design is a symbolic sarcophagus containing thirty years of struggle to unearth my biological origins.

Themes that consistently run throughout my work are time, memory and place.  My quilts spring from memories and experience, as well as capture them, especially as each piece is such a time-intensive undertaking.  In contrast to the unpredictability of day-to-day life, the work gives me a strong sense of comfort and place in conception and design, the meditative and repetitive process of construction and finally, the finished piece.  

brief video overview of the show
 Rerum Novarum

 The opening was a success with a well attended Q & A session
with Visual Arts Director Danielle Clouse Gast.
Cross Quarter Embrace v2
Was thrilled to have my aunt Alice Lee Solter (far right) 
and my parents Larry & Maxine Wolfmeyer in attendance
The many friends and family in attendance were by far the greatest reward, including a surprise visit from Lori Cerny and Tracy Wilkerson - friends from my summers in Custer State Park (1989-92) .
(left to right) Larry & Maxine Wolfmeyer, Erick Wolfmeyer, Alice Lee Solter, Frankie Holt, Greg Cotton, Michelle Wieseler, Raymond Caffee, Ella & Richard Cotton, Alan Wieseler, Tam Caffee

It was wonderful to see Poppy Fields on the wall.  Dreams realized.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 28-April 15, 2017, Quilted Expressions, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, Fort Dodge, Iowa

My work is scheduled to be included in a group fiber exhibit, featuring four Iowa fiber/quilt artists, curated by Eric Anderson of the Blanden Art Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  I will be premiering my self portrait Face of a Stranger (2016) as well as showing One Life (2013) and Humans Race (2012).

Opening Reception Saturday, January 28, 3-5pm with Artists Talk at 3:30pm.

Opening and gallery talk for Quilted Expressions
Saturday January 28, 207

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January-May 2017, Art Quilts of the Midwest; Iowa Quilt Museum, Winterset, Iowa

Marianne Fons (co-founder), Linzee Kull-McCray (author) and Megan Barrett (Museum Director) at the Iowa Quilt Museum opening for Art Quilts of the Midwest, January 28, 2017

A collection of quilts featured in Linzee Kull-McCray's book Art Quilts of the Midwest will be exhibited at Iowa's new and only museum dedicated exclusively to quilts, the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset - Iowa's quilt epicenter of sorts, thanks to Fons & Porter.  I'm pleased to be exhibiting there within it's inaugural year of opening.  Quilts and quilting are such a fundamental part of Iowa heritage.  My quilt Portmanteau will be on display as part of this exhibit.  It was one of two of my quilts featured in McCray's book and is currently in the collection of the Iowa State Historical Museum in Des Moines.

Portmanteau (aka Revolution), 2011