July 2019 JMG
Featuring the work by: Kim Eichler-Messmer, Melissa Wilkinson, and Tiffany Bailey
I grew up in Iowa as an only child to two very hard working, creative, nature loving parents. I learned how to sew in the 5th grade when my dad and I made a quilt out of our old shirts. In college, at Iowa State University, I studied engineering, Spanish, Portuguese, drawing, and printmaking before finally realizing my love of textiles in a yardage screen printing class. I earned an MFA in Textiles from the University of Kansas. Now I live in Kansas City where I teach full time at the Kansas City Art Institute and make loads of quilts. Most of my quilts are hand dyed and I love teaching others how to dye fabric. I teach workshops regularly around the US (I'm eager to travel abroad to teach - email me if you live somewhere cool and you want me to come there!). My book, Modern Color: An Illustrated Guide to Dyeing Fabric for Modern Quilts, was published in 2014. I also frequently show my work in galleries.
Like countless American women who came before me, I choose to make quilts in an attempt to communicate something of myself to others, to challenge my creativity, and to provide a level of care for others and myself. The history of quilting in America is fascinating to me. Women in quilting communities seemed to develop a language of working through proximity, similarity of experience, and availability of materials. Quilting styles emerged and evolved as women were introduced to outside influences and then absorbed those influences into a quilterly way of working. You can see the history of women in America through the quilts they made. Not only do I love the process of making a quilt, I feel honored to be part of that long, and often overlooked, history.
My own quilt work is an abstract exploration of structure and pattern in the natural world. The emotional impact of a landscape, the variability of weather patterns, and the abbreviated timeline of the earth visible in geology and landforms all speak to me on a spiritual level. I am equally inspired by the biological and chemical systems that make up living organisms, mathematical and planned systems such as central pivot irrigation, and the logistics of cities and roadways. I use color, geometry, and repetition to explore and represent these ideas.
Much of my work is made from hand dyed and printed textiles. I use natural materials such as wool, silk, cotton, and linen almost exclusively and use dyes and pigments made from plants and insects. I grow or forage many of my own dyes, such as black walnuts, Osage orange, marigolds, and weld. Inherently tactile, slow, and labor intensive, quilting provides an opportunity for quiet reflection. Like quilting, the process of dyeing or printing fabric using natural dyes is slow and methodical. From growing, harvesting, and preserving the plant materials, to creating the dye baths and carefully dyeing the fiber, each step creates an opportunity for reflection and gratitude. Though I strive for a level of control in the process, nature is inherently uncontrollable and I enjoy the variation and surprise that comes through in the work. These variations can feel magical and I often allow them to guide my work. It can feel frivolous and impractical to use such time consuming and anachronistic practices. But I am more and more aware of the importance of slowing down, of using our hands, and reconnecting with the past as a way to honestly and authentically create a future.
Melissa Wilkinson is a painter and Associate Professor of art at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro. She was born in suburban Chicago in 1980 and received degrees from Western Illinois University (BFA) and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale(MFA). Her work has been featured in wide reaching publications throughout the country including three editions of New American Paintings. She has shown in various galleries nationally and internationally including South Korea and India and has won numerous awards, grants and fellowships throughout her career. Her work is amongst private collections throughout the country and abroad and she exhibits currently at Greg Thompson Gallery and M2 Gallery in Little Rock Arkansas. She paints and lives in the Memphis, TN area.
This series of paintings relates to my interest in dichotomies: obscuring and revealing, attraction and repulsion, good and evil, the past and the present. Through a highly crafted watercolor painting practice I seek to make something strange out of the ordinary. I am deeply interested in the interaction of parts and am attracted to tactile physicalities in an increasingly technological and dehumanized time. I appropriate imagery from 19th century naturalist illustrations, bodies and typically sensual subject matter to develop a pastiche that fractures both into the surreal and suggestive. I draw from sensual imagery sourced from internet searches, bodies, fabrics, shells, gems, flowers in order to open a curio chest that beholds the 21st century obsession with all things slick and hollow. The images break from their original sources into fragments, creating a complex visual experience that both irritates and seduces. I paint these images to investigate the slippery definition of both desire and corporeality. The romantic process of painting allows me to meditate on issues of gender, identity construction and beauty. Though the paintings are initially conceived of using digital processes, they are made employing a very purist approach to watercolor. In doing so, I endeavor to uphold these painting traditions while dismantling the elitism with which they are often associated.
My work reflects the topography of my childhood home in Southwestern Wisconsin.
Inspired by the landscape and agricultural architecture my porcelain work reimagines an idyllic place and time that is both contemporary and iconic. I utilize detailed renderings, subtle textures and a marriage of representational and abstract forms to create a visual vocabulary of place that is both intimate and expansive.
After moving away from Wisconsin, I found myself reflecting and memorializing my time in this place.
My admiration for my home and rural life has triggered my current investigations of this landscape and architecture in my ceramic work.
Landscape, architecture, aerial imagery and topography have been recurring references in my work for many years. I study mapped plains of land admiring their effortless connections; housed within each landscape was an arrangement of simple shapes that bonded to form dynamic compositions.
I grew up in a small rural community on the Mississippi River surrounded by forest-covered hills and steep bluffs. It was an interesting dichotomy growing up in an area
where the land is so vast, but the population is so small. There is all this space to explore, create adventures and solve curiosities, but it is juxtaposed with a village of 300 people who know everything about you, yet nothing at all.
There is a beautiful sense of freedom growing up on a river. As a young child bravery and confidence build quickly when walking into water that is not transparent. This early intrigue grows and leads to jumping off train trestles into a dark unknown and speeding down a channel in the moonlight as your body bounces balanced on top of an inner tube pulled behind a boat. One really gains a sense of immunity to danger, but also an appreciation for luck.
My elementary, middle school and high school were housed in the same building erected in the middle of a cornfield. My bus driver was my best friend’s grandpa; who was also a farmer. Future Farmers of America and football were top priorities, definitely not art or the pursuit of art. In fact, I had to take a class on cow identification in high school. Yes, cow identification!
In this ruralscape, fields of hay, corn, cows and chickens were familiar scenery. My
family, like so many in this small community, were farmers. They worked this land before the sun rose until after the sunset earning very minimal wages. My family among many families no longer farm. The increased competition from larger farms and industrial agriculture coupled with the cost of maintaining farm infrastructure and land became unsustainable.