Fiber Art That Takes a Stand

“May you live in interesting times.”
– An old Chinese curse

“Mary Colter: Builder on the Desert” by Karen Fisher

What is it about making art and taking a stand that goes hand in hand? Lately, we’ve been seeing a resurgence of social awareness, personal politics, and activism in the fiber arts.

Controversial topics in art are nothing new: from the depictions of the horrors of war in Picasso’s “Guernica” to the subversive graffiti of Banksy, modern artists have frequently broached difficult subjects … and quilt artists are no strangers to this movement. Often, the juxtaposition of the public’s idea of a quilt—something soft and warm, made for comfort and beauty—and the artist’s rendition of a difficult topic (such as racial profiling or domestic violence) seem too divergent to make sense. But to the artists who feel deeply about their subject matter and who work diligently to express their point of view with fabric and thread, these quilts are pivotal to their bodies of work.

This issue of Quilting Arts Magazine is being produced at a time of worldwide social and political upheaval. And artists—from the art quilt arena and beyond—are responding. I hope that by including some of their art and learning more about what compelled them to make these pieces, it will help move the conversation along. From the gallery of quilts, “HERstory” to the profile of artist Chawne Kimber you’ll find the very best of what art can offer: beauty, inspiration, truth, raw emotion, and controversy.

“The One for Eric G” by Chawne Kimber

Understanding the “why” of art often informs the viewer’s response. Why a quilt was made, how its creation moved the artist, and ultimately its effect on the public, is all part of the conversation. As the old Chinese curse predicted, we do live in “interesting times” and that is reflected in our art.

vivika hansen denegre


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9 thoughts on “Fiber Art That Takes a Stand

  1. That was the biggest bunch of pablum I’ve read in a long time. Just tell the truth. You helped present these vulgar works not to move the conversation along, but rather to continue the “Let’s poke the other party in the eye” movement. Pardon us, the average quilter, who does not like to see a full frontal nude woman giving the world the middle finger. How charming.

  2. Thanks so much for publishing works that are so relevant to our times! I agree that we live in interesting times, but I also appreciate the opportunity that you have given women and their right to have a voice, and that voice is through their art, quilt art. Thank you for that! I am a big fan of Chawne Kimber. I love her very evocative work.

  3. What we call “Art” is always about something. Something that evokes a response, positive or negative in the viewer. Quilt Artists are no different than any other Artist. The desire is the convey meaning, not necessarily beauty, but meaning. One may not wish to look at an image daily in one’s home, but that does not negate the power or authenticity of the Art. Their are Artists whose works I respond to, but do not like. That says more about me than the Artist or the Art.

  4. Just received the latest QA and found this article very interesting. We look to express ourselves as artists have for hundreds of years. Art museums have a diversity of styles, techniques and subject matter. Art quilters should visit museums to get ideas and educate themselves in the history of art. Self expression is the basis of making art.

  5. “What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he’s a painter, ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he’s a poet – or even, if he’s a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How is it possible to be uninterested in other men and by virtue of what cold nonchalance can you detach yourself from the life that they supply so copiously? No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.”

    (Pablo Picasso, in an interview towards the end of the second world war)

  6. Perhaps we could entertain the alternative, State controlled art. This quote from the famous Chinese dissident and internationally renowned artist, Ai Weiwei-
    Widespread state control over art and culture has left no room for freedom of expression in the country. For more than 60 years, anyone with a dissenting opinion has been suppressed. Chinese art is merely a product: it avoids any meaningful engagement. There is no larger context. Its only purpose is to charm viewers with its ambiguity. Ai Weiwei
    Read more at:

  7. Thank you so much for offering an outlet for those who feel a need to express distress at the situation in our country and the world. Art needs to be broad enough to incorporate many views, including controversial ones. Pretty art is pleasing. I prefer art that makes me curious or asks me to reconsider something.

  8. Art quilts come from deep personal communication intended to tell a story or convey thoughts or opinions. They can be sweet or offensive but always interesting or thought provoking. This is very different from traditional quilt making which is benign in nature requiring nothing more personal than a choice of color or pattern and the patience to sew the same squares together over and over until you have a beautiful quilt. No controversy, no opinion, nothing political, no soul searching required. The art quilts in the Threads of Resistance show are meant to be disturbing. They are a reflection and reaction to the state of our country and the ground we are fast losing. They are meant to shake you out of your complacency, open your eyes and heart and step up to help save a nation, one woman at a time, one quilt at a time. They are not meant to be comfortable, happy little quilts. They are the deepest reflection of our angst and anger. If you want comfort, go sew some 9 patches together.