March 29th Jenna Valoe and I have an opening at Ripon College in Wisconsin for a show we are calling “A Time of Expectant Hopes”. I was approached by Ripon for a show over a year ago and in considering it I was drawn to the idea of making large fancy banners, quilts and patches reflecting the necessary positive change in these dark times. I approached fiber artist Jenna Valoe to see if she’d be interested in collaborating on such a show. Luckily she agreed and we are making progress on the pieces as I write this. I’ll have a few more posts on this show as things finish up but first I asked Jenna to give some perspective on her work in this collaboration.
It’s been just over a year since Pete first messaged me about working collaboratively on textile pieces for a show he’d lined up at Ripon College. At the time, I was living in rural Northern Wisconsin, preparing to send a handful of quilts to Milwaukee for a group show, and considering how I wanted to approach my art practice in 2017. My response was an enthusiastic yes, “Awesome. What’s the vibe?” to which Pete replied, “I’d like them to be big and beautiful and have a positive/historical message”. It sounded like the perfect way to start the year.
My ambition as an artist is to share my experiences of nature and spirit while embracing my role as a messenger, with the aspiration that my moments of being connected to something greater resonate with others. Within the past five years, this has primarily taken shape through abstract minimalist quilts, banners and embroidery.
I’ve approached this collaboration viewing each piece as a dialogue in which Pete’s art starts the conversation. While we discussed overarching aesthetic references, my textile designs and colors are a direct reflection of my experience viewing his work. It’s been interesting for me to incorporate Pete’s literal imagery and text with my usually abstract and improvisational ways of making quilts and banners. In an attempt to find a balance between our crafts that is complementary, I’ve done a lot more sketching, planning and editing with these pieces than I typically do.
I’ve been deliberate that the designs and colors I use don’t distract from the empathy of the prints, that they keep their scale framed and feel cohesive as a collection.
When the first delivery of printed fabrics arrived from Pete, I rolled them out on my bed and stared at them for about twenty-five minutes.
I had seen the prints before but felt particularly encouraged and reassured looking at them alone that afternoon. I was excited to start integrating them with my handcrafts and knew immediately I wanted to make a more traditional quilt with Pete’s “Hold Fast” block print. It felt important to spend time with that image, to incorporate a lot of hand stitching in the quilt and know that there would always be the potential for people to wrap themselves up in it. The geometric pattern on this quilt is called Flying Geese and was historically used as a marker for fleeing slaves and travelers, directing them to homes where they could rest and receive help. The repetitive design is a compassionate intention that echoed the message of our quilt.