February 2, 2003 Vol. VIII, No. 9

From the Japanese quilts exhibition: "Seven Lucky Gods."

Dazzling Japanese Quilts Exhibition Opens at Northridge

One Hundred Extraordinary Quilts Create New Art from Old, Traditional Fabrics

In its only West Coast showing, the "Contemporary Japanese Quilts: New Works by Quilt Artists in Japan" exhibition will open at the Art Galleries of Cal State Northridge on Monday, Feb. 2. Due to the scale of the exhibition—it features 100 quilts pieced together from traditional Japanese fabrics—it will be shown in two segments: February 2–20 and February 23–March 13.

A special reception for artists and exhibition organizers is planned for Friday, Feb. 6. It will be open to the public. Juliann Wolfgram, a specialist in Asian art, will present a lecture on the exhibition on Monday, Feb. 9, in the Galleries.

Organized by the Asian Art Coordinating Council in Denver, Colo., in conjunction with Kokusai Art and the Japan Handicrafts Instructors' Association of Tokyo, Japan, the exhibition—which has toured in Japan, Australia and the Netherlands and will visit other U.S. cities—presents quilts by 100 women, including veteran as well as new quilt artists and instructors.

"Each quilter was required to include traditional textiles produced in Japan,"said Instructors' Association chairman Tadanobu Seto, "and considered part of our cultural history."

Constructed from hand dyed and woven fabrics, including richly textured or more delicate cloths from kimonos, obis and bedding, the works represent a new wave of quilt making in Japan, sparked by the recent introduction of the American tradition of patchwork quilts.

"Japanese women have a very long history of hand and needle art,"said CSUN art professor and textiles expert Bernice Colman, "not just as garment makers, but as object makers."Embroidered cushions, bags, dolls and other small objects are part of a well-established needlework tradition.

"When the quilt craze hit in Japan about 25 years ago,"Colman said, "the women saw it as an outlet for creative expression that goes beyond the little dolls and other objects."

Colman pointed out that the exercise of patchwork quilting in itself is not new to Japan, whose futons reveal the frequent practical use of patchwork. "The new Japanese quilts, however, combine the Japanese stylistic tradition with the Western pictorial tradition,"she explained.

The works range from a joyful scarlet silk on cream creation called "Celebration"to the brooding deep dyed cotton indigos of "Mt. Fuji in Late Summer,"from free form to geometric to narrative. Throughout, the artists' themes and images—dogwood, peach and apple blossoms, cranes, the elements, ribbons of rivers and moonlight—reflect their closeness to the natural world.

Though the works are introspective in mood and executed by individuals rather than in the more social American quilting party, Art Galleries Director Louise Lewis sees them as the products of a "metaphoric quilting bee."The sense of community is present, she said, in the artists' collective desire to bring their ancestors into their work and to emphasize the symbols of their culture.

"We are delighted to be able to do this exhibition in the spring, coming out of a dark winter and in an uneasy time in the world," Lewis said. "The joy in even the most simple of these quilts gives one a sense of community, their connective threads binding us together."

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