Arturo Sandoval




Arturo Sandoval




Arturo Sandoval


Kate Kleinart

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Lexington, Kentucky


Kim Greene


Note: The interview took place at the University of Kentucky, Reynolds building #1 Art Studio Facility, Room 104A.

Kate Kleinert (KK): Hello, this is Kate Kleinert, and I am here with Arturo Sandoval, and it is Wednesday, April 5, at 11:49 a.m.

Professor Arturo Alonzo Sandoval (AAS): Can we say, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval?

KK: Yes, we can. Sorry about that. Okay, and so the first thing we want to talk about is the piece here.

AAS: Right, this piece here is called "Pattern Fusion #6," and it is an art quilt that uses a basket weave structure, and the object was to create an image that related to a theme called "Step Up to the Plate," for which the piece is going to be exhibited in Louisville during the symposium that is being organized by the American Association of Woodturners. Being asked to be a juror, they also asked me to submit a work for the symposium exhibition that will be installed in the Louisville Slugger Museum. So, the design for this piece came about that way. The idea of inserting square elements for the theme, brought me to consider using a Four Patch on a large scale, and I divided the main Four Patch design into two areas that became another Four Patch. So, basically the weave is holding the design and the vertical and horizontal elements together, and the vertical elements are where I positioned the Four Patch quilt design. The materials for this work are recycled automobile Mylar from the fifties and sixties and recycled 35 mm microfilm from the University of Kentucky library here in Lexington. The two materials are sewn together with bridal netting and multi-colored threads and monofilament threads. The interlaced structure is a basket weave variation where there are three horizontal elements that are going over-and-under two vertical elements. The scale is six by six feet. Also, I wanted to keep the idea for the theme related to how many bases there were on a baseball field. So, there are four ascending gold, silver and copper squares for the bases and home plate, and then I wanted also to represent the teams, so there are two blue squares, and then I wanted to represent the crowd, so there are two larger rainbow squares. And then the basket weave structure and the stitching represent, in essence, the umpires and the coaches who are those individuals who have to keep the teams in line and be aware of the baseball rules. So, the piece, even though it is very abstract ties into the theme in a metaphorical way. So, it's funny, I didn't really plan the metaphorical comparisons, I just planned to create a new art quilt for the show, but I knew I wanted to do this Four Patch quilt format. The other day I was talking to a woman, who also was interviewing me, and she saw all of these metaphors, so I thought, should I introduce them in the art statement for the piece? So, I took her viewpoint on the art quilt and that is how I now use those metaphors to describe this art quilt.

KK: Okay. So, when did you start on this piece?

AAS: I began on this piece around spring break 2006.

KK: Okay and when is it supposed to be finished? Will it be in the show?

AAS: It will be in the show in June.

KK: Okay, and what was the theme?

AAS: "Step Up to the Plate."

KK: Okay.

AAS: It is at the Louisville Slugger Museum.

KK: Okay. Great. All right why did you choose to talk about this piece today?

AAS: Mainly because it is there up on my studio wall. It is one piece that I don't have to unroll from my studio inventory. As you can see in my storage area there is a lot more work stored there, but this one is the most current work, and it is great to talk about something that is being new and being developed. You are seeing it in the process stage, because you can see that the weave now has to be held together by using an archival glue and then push pins have to be applied to hold the glued areas in place while the piece dries and then I turn the piece around and I will be finishing the backside with another polymer medium and Pellon followed by a polymer medium and canvas backing.

KK: Okay.

AAS: And, then finish the hanging sleeves like a regular quilt. But now you are seeing the process, where it has been aligned and now, I am gluing all the elements together on the front side before I turn it over to the back side.

KK: Okay. Can you talk a little bit about your creative process, like how you go from an idea through to the completion?

AAS: Before coming to Kentucky, I used to draw a lot of sketchbook ideas, I used to create the idea first and then consider materials, and then consider how am I going to do the process. Since coming to Kentucky, I was introduced by colleagues to the state capital Surplus Materials Building where there are massive amounts of Army surplus materials. There was allot of linear tapes, films, laundry tag paper, microfilm, battery cable, plastic, and colored electrical wire. Since these materials were linear, they could be manipulated into an interlaced grid or used for a sculpture. So, in 1976 I brought all of those materials back to my studio. And so, in 1976 I began to explore using these materials for my own creative research. I tried to develop an aesthetic that created beauty from trash, because all of this stuff was considered as throw away materials. In addition, I wanted to also take on the challenge of recycling this trash, this material that no longer had a design purpose and transform it into a new aesthetic purpose, one of visually beautiful art quilts. So, basically that is how the material guided me to new fiber processes: machine sewing and interlacing. So, from previously developing my ideas where I would sketch and then consider how I was going to develop something, now it was the material that was guiding me. And, when I handled the material and saw the potential it had for creating design and graphic elements, I was guided in this direction.

KK: Okay. How would you define yourself as an artist, and how would you define your work?

AAS: Well, I call myself a weaver, but I also consider myself an art quilter. Mainly because of this process that I previously mentioned. Like a traditional quilter who goes out and searches for fabric, I'm looking for recyclable materials that I could put together. So, it is a very similar research objective. But I do consider myself a fiber artist as well. So, the overall umbrella is fiber artist, but weaving is very important to the consideration of how I develop the majority of my work. Whether it is weaving that is actual, or whether it's an illusion, I try to always have weaving in my work somehow so it can be an integral part of the design and structure.

KK: So, you first started working in fiber when you came here to Kentucky?

AAS: Oh, no. I graduated in 1964 with a B.A. in Design and began basic weaving courses in 1965. Then in 1966 I went to Vietnam in the USNR. After Vietnam, I'm a Vietnam vet, I went back to graduate school in California and then I considered using fiber as my thesis approach and I continued floor loom weaving very seriously, that's where the focused weaving began where I was making three dimensional sculptures using the double-weave technique on the loom. In 1969 I completed my Master of Art in loom woven fiber sculpture. After that I was encouraged by my thesis committee to apply to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. There I continued with my process of using the floor loom to explore three dimensional sculptures. Then after Cranbrook I was teaching at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville where I started the Textiles program in 1971, and I continued weaving there these large funky metallic clouds with ladders that were ascending into them. But finding the surplus at Kentucky somehow seemed right for my art, because in 1973 I was invited into an exhibit by Mildred Constantine, a famous author and curator in New York City, called Con-Tex-Ture. Connie selected my first art quilt piece titled Sky Wall, and I decided at the last minute to interlace photo-silkscreened cloud material that I created and brought from graduate school at Cranbrook. It was so easy to interlace and that allowed me to think about interlacing as a total hand-woven surface. Because in floor loom weaving you always have your woven idea rolled up on the cloth beam, and you always have to use a measuring tape there for you to make sure it is woven correctly, and you never get to see the final product until you take it off the loom, and because everything has to be very mathematically in tune I felt interlacing would be a new more direct process for me to seriously consider for my research in Kentucky. In interlacing, I am able to pin the vertical and horizontal elements up on the wall, look at them like a painting or a sculpture, and then interlace the two elements together. So, it allowed me to see the whole image at one time, and that was very different from working with the floor loom. So, I sort of gave up the loom as a major studio tool until I went back to it in the eighties, but primarily my research has been like you see here totally off loom, working with braids or strips that I compose, that I create out of layers of materials, and those pieces get interlaced together and then the whole piece becomes one art quilt surface in the interlaced structure. So, that is pretty much the different approach.

KK: Um, who has influenced you in your artwork?

AAS: Well, basically when I was a student Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella, were very influential because I was studying to be a fine art design student, and I was living in Los Angeles and their works were being introduced to the galleries and the museums, and so I was very lucky to see the seminal pieces of Robert Rauschenberg's combined images. So, his freedom to throw a goat and a car tire on a floor canvas and his freedom to use an American quilt as a canvas and paint all over it gave me the freedom to do what I do. Another primal influence of course is Marcel Duchamp. He is influential with every artist, and his comment that, 'there are no rules in art,' gave me freedom as well. And so, when I began floor loom weaving in the sixties, I was using freedoms to create non-existent sculptural forms that never before had been seen. When I went to Cranbrook, I continued working with recyclable materials because Cranbrook had a lot of patrons that gave materials to the fiber program, so I was able to work with automobile weather stripping from General Motors and Ford. So, I continued experimenting with them on the floor loom making fabric or art fabrics that I manipulated into sculptural forms. Coming to Kentucky the major patron became the state, and so I have accumulated all of this recyclable material since 1976 and I have not used it all up. What is so exciting is that I continue to work recycled surplus materials into my ideas and periodically, like when I am invited to be in a political themed exhibition where there are no censorship rules, I am able to create another flag where I can use surplus materials. There is a whole series of American flags that are titled STATE OF THE UNION that I have made as art quilts. So, when I am using a theme like "Stepping up to the Plate" I know that I want to show something that is going to be a new vision in my development as an artist. So, I am creating this new piece as an addition to the Pattern Fusion Series but also for this themed exhibit sponsored by the American Association of Woodturners. However, at the same time not realizing that I would be making these specific shapes you see on the piece for the theme but, I just knew I wanted to do something that related to the theme in my design. So, working directly on the wall is like visualizing ideas in the sketchbook as I expressed earlier. However, when I begin working on the wall if some design element comes into my head I'll go up and immediately place it on the materials that are already on the wall. So, I'm able then to literally build on the wall as I would have in a drawing or in a sketchbook. Over the years I just have found that the materials are guiding me more and that I listen to them, and I play with them, I try to express and be sensitive to what they are saying visually and to be guided by that feeling. It's pretty much a spiritual involvement and collaboration.

KK: So, do you usually, um, just start with the materials or do you start with a theme, or does it vary with what you are doing?

AAS: Well, in essence I began early on as an artist starting with a theme, now I start with the materials that give me the theme. So, when I began working these materials in the seventies, the theme became Cityscape because these interlaced materials, 16 mm microfilm, paper, Lurex, and opalescent Mylar, when interlaced looked like aerial views of the city. So, the cityscape became the theme for that series of work. However, in using these same materials now I knew that I wanted to do something different, so I began to look at what my previous ideas were, and I knew interlacing was important, I knew pattern was important, so I thought well I'm going to be bringing those two elements together. Pattern, interlacing and the materials and I'm going to fuse them by a layering process created by the interlaced structure. So that previous creative experience has led me to this current body of work. So, in essence I'm back at that same point again but I am adding colored Mylar to the mix that is replacing the white paper.

KK: I saw your Alma Lesch catalog, um any sort of influence or inspiration to any of your work.

AAS: I was in graduate school when I first saw her work in 1969 when I was at Cranbrook working as a guard in the museum where they had installed the exhibition "Objects USA." She and Rudy Osolnik were the two Kentuckians, and I was fascinated with and especially Alma because of the fact that she was recycling clothing in her art quilts. Because she did this in her "American Gothic" piece that was in in the exhibit. Even though I never studied with Alma Lesch I knew of her, and we became friends, and I did curate an exhibition, around 1986 for the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation, Inc., where I did place her work in it.

KK: Okay.

AAS: And she and I, you know respected each other because we were both university professors and she was just retiring when I was coming to Kentucky, and Lida Gordon was one of her students who took over in her role as the fiber arts teacher in the Louisville area. So, Alma Lesch has been an additional influence maybe because of the recycle element in her art and of her freedom of choice again. I mean she created with great freedom, and I really appreciated that aspect of her approach to her ideas. So, as for artists who influence me, I'm looking at people who continue to work with that freedom in their work where they create art without rules.

KK: Okay. How do you view your work in the larger art world as opposed to your fiber world?

AAS: Well, I was very fortunate in the seventies that the Museum of Modern Art purchased one of my first film pieces titled Cityscape #1 that was made out of recycled 16 mm bank film, paper, Lurex and opalescent Mylar. So, I felt automatically that I was having my fiber art accepted in the art world. So, I continued to think of myself in that context ever since because my creative research at the University of Kentucky has always avoided crafty ideas, or it has always been on the edge, and it's avoided using traditional craft materials. And that to me is being a little bit more on the larger art world view, because I was trying to be innovative, I was trying not to follow necessarily tradition, and I was trying to push a new idea that no one had ever seen before. And so, when Nancy Crow visited my studio in 1989, I had this seven by, I guess eleven- or fifteen-foot artwork on the wall. I hadn't called my pieces quilts at that time, I called them interlacings. She said to me, 'you are a quilter,' come and teach for me at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium. Well, I thought to myself, I never thought of myself as a quilter, but I am making all of these layers, I follow all the parameters of what a quilt is, three layers with a middle layer, top layer, back layer. And I stitch through the piece, you know, so that fascinated me. So, I began to think of myself as an art quilter. And that thought process has, I think, heightened my skills in terms of my craft and finishing processes. I think that it has changed the way I had previously viewed the art approach to making my recycled context images, meaning that craft is not as important as idea in those early pieces. Whereas now I believe being in the art quilt world since meeting Nancy Crow and getting advice from my friend, Jack Lenor Larson in New York, who has been a great supporter of my work since 1975 my art had to change, and I became more aware of the craft in each piece. Jack contributed the funds to buy Cityscape #1 for the Museum of Modern Art. Jack Lenor Larson is an international textile designer, and a giant in the textile and fiber art field. Anyway, it was Jack who wrote and asked me, in a letter that was written about a year and a half ago, "why don't you return to some of your early ideas," because he had been following my artwork over the last thirty years. So, I thought about that advice for about six months, and I began to do the Pattern Fusion series of which this work that you see in the studio is the sixth piece in that series.

KK: Okay.

AAS: And I have been fascinated by the fact that I love working with these same materials again. However, this time I'm infusing much more color into the work, whereas before it was all just predominately white and black with very little color.

KK: Okay. Um, along the way, how have you developed your different techniques? Have you just done experiments, or experimented with materials, or have you had any people give you ideas of how to do things or anything?

AAS: Both.

KK: Okay.

AAS: You always have people that you observe, and you take a look at your teachers' ideas, you take a look at your workshop leaders' ideas, and wherever you have an opportunity to study with somebody, and you take that information with you. I had two really interesting teachers in California, Michael Schrier who was a three-dimensional high texture mix media, and fur and feather, wool kind of weaver, and Virginia Hoffman who was a traditionalist and minimalist as she was doing large scale three dimensional simple organic forms while working with linens, and jutes, and other natural materials, but had minimal surface texture, but a lot of woven structure that was visually prominent. So those two approaches started me off on my art fabric and sculptural experimentation. Then when it came to using the sewing machine, I had to teach myself how to sew. At the time I was married, and my wife was helping me, but she didn't want to use her good Singer sewing machine on this kind of work where I was combining materials like paint, aluminum, and Mylar. So, I had to go out and buy me a small, cheap sewing machine. However, it didn't do any zigzag stitches; it only did straight stitches, so all that early work was done with straight stitches. Another instance of learning was when my Singer sewing machine had broken down, I took it in for repair and brought a material sample that I was sewing to the manufacturer service person. To my surprise he said, 'Oh you are not sewing with fabric so we can't fix your machine anymore.' He says, 'You need to get a Singer industrial sewing machine.' It was then that I finally decided to get me a Singer industrial sewing machine. So then, I went out and bought a Singer industrial sewing machine for my studio, and I have been using it ever since. And so, really, everybody teaches me something in one-way or another.

KK: Okay. How many hours a week would you say you work on your pieces?

AAS: Oh, now that's very, very different, so different from when I started. When I was younger in the seventies, I would be here in the studio, in addition to my teaching time, I would be here every day for an extra eight hours at least. Now, because teaching has become more important, my research activity has become less during the semester because of the time I put into my class preparation. When you are a young faculty person you also have to prepare for tenure. So, you are forced into getting exhibits, getting new work out there, getting juried into shows, winning prizes, being in cataloged exhibits and museum exhibits. And now since receiving tenure and full professorship some of that pressure is off, but not the pressure to be innovative. In undergraduate school I was encouraged to be an innovative artist because that was how young artists got recognition. I mean, that is one of the things that's primary to my being a fiber artist is that I think because fiber has so many variables in how you can create artwork, I had to distinguish myself and focus on ideas and materials that no one else was using. As you can see anything that is linear, that is industrially designed, metal, plastic, microfilm, celluloid, whatever, I'm willing to use all of it in my art. The actual time it takes to make a large-scale piece is dependent on the idea and how I will express it. Sometimes it takes three months and so, ah, that pretty much answers that.

KK: Okay. That, sort of at the end, that kind of went into my next question, which is what do you find pleasing about working with fiber?

AAS: Well, since I teach weaving and my students are always working with cotton or wool warps, I find it pleasurable handling the traditional materials as I teach them how to dress the loom in my on-loom fiber classes. But working with these non-woven manmade high tech industrial materials that have a design purpose for academics or industry, has just been fascinating, and whenever I can beg, borrow, or lift [laughs.] some free material in abundance, that I think has potential, I do it. As you can see in my studio all of the material chaos that you're seeing here, is the essence of layers of materials that have been used for every project in the past five years. It seems that if I'm going to arrange the studio, there has to be a major commission that I have to be doing in order to do that. Right now, all my projects are personally motivated, and they are not commissions. So, the studio doesn't really ever get arranged as neatly as possible. However, having all of these materials visibly at hand provides me the opportunity to work more intuitively. I mean this little strip of Mylar [holds up material.] was designed for a piece that is in Pittsburg, and it is an extra strip that did not get used in it. So, this little strip then became recycled into name badges for the recent American Craft Council Southeast conference in Louisville. So, I recycle even my own studies into either functional objects or new artwork. In 1985, I began to recycle pieces in my storage inventory that were ten years old into a whole new art quilt series called, "Ground Zero." They had not been sold during that time period and the materials were just there rolled up, so I started cutting them up and using them.

KK: Okay. Are there any aspects of working with fiber that you don't enjoy?

AAS: No, I think all aspects of it are wonderful. I mean, how can one not enjoy their craft and their materials that go with it. It's why they call themselves a fiber artist.

KK: Right, Okay. [laughs.] What would you say is your most influential piece, the one that speaks to most people?

AAS: The most influential one, you know I think there are several, the one that is in the Museum of Modern Art, and then the two pieces that I have shown in the 1977 and 1989 International Biennials in Switzerland. Those pieces probably have had the broadest or widest audience visibility. And I think that they introduced the world to my kind of fiber art, fiber art that is interlaced and machine stitched. In addition, it also introduced to those audiences my use of a reflected surface and image on a monumental scale that was the kind of work that was not in any of the previous Biennials. The art in the Biennials at that time would use a lot of natural materials and traditional processes of fiber structures like braiding and knotting or loom weaving. None of those pieces had illustrated any ideas that altered the illusion of the forms on the surface of the artwork through reflectivity by using the ambient light of the museum. So, my pieces created a new vision of fiber art, and I think that is why they have been the most influential: Cityscape #1, Sky Image #1, and my Ground Zero #10, are my artworks that have been the most influential.

KK: What do you think your biggest contribution has been to the art world, or more specifically the fiber world?

AAS: I think my biggest contribution mainly is making beauty from trash. And I forgot to mention there is another person who was very important to me, his name is, Ed Rossbach. He was also in the major traveling exhibition "Objects USA" in 1969.

AAS: In that exhibit Ed Rossbach was also showing a tremendous amount of freedom by using recycled materials in his pieces that were shown in "Objects USA." He was making art fabrics by plaiting wire; he was making art fabrics wrapping newspapers in plastic and then plaiting them into large textured surfaces. So he was, probably the one person in the fiber design field that inspired me to use recycled materials freely as I have been doing, while the other artists previously mentioned were fine art inspirations.

KK: Okay.

AAS: I never studied with Ed Rossbach because he was in northern California, and I was in southern California.

KK: All right. Are you interested in, at all in traditional quilt fabric thinking?

AAS: Well, you know I have done that.

KK: Um, hum.

AAS: You know I do it whenever there is a dramatic theme or dramatic element. I have searched for camouflage fabric for my flag pieces. Also, I have expressed it when I use digital printout material for some my planetary ideas as for the Oxymoron art quilt show. For that show I did small studies, then I had them digitally photographed, enlarged and digitally printed on a fabric surface. The enlarged digitally printed image becomes a major part of the design element; and I will then add other fiber and Mylar media to it, so it's fiber with my mixed media element. However, I never really had an urge to go out and find specific materials for the majority of my art quilts other than for my flag series as mentioned where I wanted camouflage or wanted day-glow fabric, or wanted something that would be an intense color or intense pattern that related to my American flag theme.

KK: Okay. One of the questions that we usually ask is what is your first quilt memory?

AAS: My first quilt memory? Now that is interesting, because I'm trying to think about my childhood, and I've done my biography, and I don't know if I necessarily have a quilt memory of the fabric laying on me as a child probably because my mom wove blankets. My mother wove blankets in New Mexico, and she claims to have woven sixty blankets while she was pregnant with me. So, I find that fascinating that I do not have a quilt memory as a child. My mom worked for a weaver, so my first memory might be of a blanket. The fact is that I remembered those blankets and not necessarily quilts. But I would say the first quilt memory would be when Nancy Crow came in my studio and said in 1989, you're an art quilter, and I am thinking, oh I am.

KK: [laughs.]

AAS: So that would be my first quilt memory, because this woman who is so seminal to the art quilt movement and initiated the terminology "art quilt" and began the art quilt movement, you know, since she recognized my work as that too.

KK: Okay. All right, um, you just said your mother was a weaver, were there other quilt makers or any, um, in your family or friends?

AAS: Well, I have cousins who crocheted, you know crochet afghans, and my mother has even crocheted, but no one really quilted in our family, there weren't any quilters. We are all from New Mexico, and in New Mexico it's hot. There are winters there, but wool was the favorite material, and there weren't any quilters. And, when I look at the history of our fabrics that my mom has collected, they are wool weavings.

KK: Okay. All right, what do you think makes a quilt or fiber piece artistically powerful?

AAS: I think first of all the visual composition. It has to have an essence or design that just strikes or impacts you visually. Art being visual is so important. Then after that, like with most quilts, you want to go up and see the surface, and then you want to check out the craftsmanship. And so, if you look at a piece it has to be well designed, have impact through color and use of art elements, and have outstanding craftsmanship. Now in today's art quilt culture what I find interesting is the praise for quilts made by African Americans as the Gee's Bend quilts that they have visual impact, but their craft is not as good as the traditional American quilters and Amish quilters. That to me is stating an appreciation for two different aesthetics. So, when I think quilts, I think of visual impact and craftsmanship. I'm not demeaning the Gee's Bend quilts or those individuals, I'm just saying that their approach to quilt making is another kind of aesthetic when it comes to their craftsmanship. My aesthetic right now is to try to make something that will last for a hundred fifty, two hundred, maybe a thousand years, because I want the craftsmanship and the structure to be so well done and cared for, that every time you unroll it, it is not falling apart, there's not any weakness in the piece, so that is where I am currently regarding my feeling about powerful art quilts.

KK: Okay. What do you think makes a quilt or fiber piece appropriate for a museum or special collection?

AAS: I think museums like scale, and I think they also like how materials are used and crafted. It all depends on what they are looking for to add to their collection as when the Museum of Modern Art collected my work. Those are the three issues that were considered: scale, materials and craft, because the curators saw the exotic use of materials, things that had never before been accomplished. So that is what they were going after. Okay. But museums have different collections and different reasons for collecting. I say scale because I believe museums should have pieces that are monumental pieces that show tremendous amount of research innovation, you know, contact with the world. The artist's truth being displayed on a grand scale. However, my statement doesn't diminish small work at all. And, a quilt museum will collect various sizes, like the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum collects art quilts of different sizes and materials. The MAD (Museum of Art and Design) in New York (formerly the American Craft Museum), collect all different sizes. So, it all depends upon the curator and his/her reason to add a piece to the collection, or what part of the museum collection for which he/her is collecting, as in traditional or contemporary objects.

KK: All right. Do you think your work reflects your community or region at all?

AAS: That's interesting. I think it actually reflects my culture.

KK: Okay.

AAS: I think that these pieces being made from recycled materials reflect it. They look so mathematical and so complex and so structured, and that reflects the kind of high-tech culture that we live in right now. And, I think the color and the reflectivity, and those elements represent the kind of time and movement that we live in right now. The pieces are fragments and fractured and relate that we live in a time where we are very much aware of how much time we give to somebody. Or how much time we give to ourselves, or how much time we give to a project. Also, how much time we are going to utilize in watching TV or creating an artwork, how much time we are going to hold that artist viewing my art, or how much time are we being held by the art itself. You know the audience or the movie or whatever we are looking at that requires our time. So, I believe that it is not necessarily a community reflection, but it's a culture one. I believe my work is very American initially, because these pieces come out of that, a product of the American industrial recycled materials complex.

KK: Okay. In what way do you think quilts are important to American life?

AAS: I think, first of all because of the history surrounding them that comes primarily from Scotland, Ireland, and Europe. The history is important, because in the beginning of the American nation quilts were very much a part of how people kept themselves warm, they kept recycling materials as old clothing, they were recycling. But just think about how those early American quilters did all of the quilting themselves and the way that they approached the beauty and function of quilts, that without them, I don't think we would have anyone here in America because people would have been cold and died without the warmth the quilts provided. If it were not for those early pioneer women who were making those quilts, there would be no legacy. Now their legacy has become important to our culture and in addition very important to the museum and the broader fine art world. The recognition just took time to reach an audience who would appreciate this aesthetic created by those early American quilters. You know, I am happy that Nancy Crow called me an art quilter because it just fits right in with my recycling philosophy and I may be dead and gone when all the pieces that I do will perhaps have more significance than they do now, but right now they have some significance. My art quilts have been published in magazines, exhibited in many shows, and have been purchased and placed in permanent museum collections. So, I'm really lucky that my work is being appreciated in my lifetime and even purchased by the public. So, I really think that without quilting there may not have been a modern American culture because the early pioneers would have died from the cold.

KK: [laughs.]

AAS: [laughs.] Because the Pilgrims were too cold. [laughs.] They weren't covered up in winter. Families would have starved, you know frozen.

KK: Okay. [laughs.]

AAS: You know, I mean I see it like that.

KK: How do you think that quilts and fiber pieces can be used?

AAS: You mean for function?

KK: Either way. Like functionally or--

AAS: Traditionally quilts have both a function and an aesthetic. In my courses students are allow the function option if they want to do art-to-wear. There are books on quilts and art-to-wear in the fiber studio library that I show them that picture the creative lengths that artists have used to create these unique objects for the body. So, I'm asking them not to simply replicate the tradition and culture of fashion, but to replicate something unique from their heart, something that they want to create that is unique and authentic. So, the functional aspect of a quilt is still inherent but, you also have a beautiful quilt, as a Carol Bryer Fallert quilt or a Carol Taylor quilt, or a Nancy Crow quilt, quilts that can warm your body because they are made out of those soft cotton traditional materials, but they are created to be primarily art objects. My pieces, however, can't be functional. They could perhaps be on the floor and used as a floor piece, and on the wall as a painting, but they are not really functional and cannot be appreciated like the quilts made by the artists I just mentioned. There are many beautiful traditional and art quilts that can also be wonderful functional objects.

KK: Okay. And my last question is how do you think quilts can be preserved for the future or fiber pieces?

AAS: The physical quilt needs to be stored by rolling them up or folded gently with archival padding and wrapping materials and processes. Then they must be kept in a dry temperature-controlled environment. Another way of preservation, however, is through documentation in books and through exhibits that display antique quilts from private collections, as we have currently at the UK Art Museum that is showing the Pilgrim/Roy collection. Also on display in the UK William T. Young Library is the Hall collection for all of the students using the library to view and in that way the public gets to see and appreciate the quilt legacy again. And young artists that have never seen this work get to see it again. So, preservation of quilts is multi-faceted. I think it is very important, like what you are doing here with the oral history. In addition, preservation and appreciation occurs through solo exhibits of quilt artists, group exhibits, through conferences and symposiums that continue the work within the fiber arts field and in the quilt surface design field. I think all of that helps to preserve the quilt object and its history. It is all very important.

KK: Okay. That is all of the questions that I have. Is there anything you want to add about your work or?

AAS: No. I think I'm just surprised that I was even able to address somehow your questions.

KK: Okay. [laughs.]

AAS: The questions were wonderfully composed, I liked them. Perhaps I may retire from teaching probably in six years from this university. So I'm in the process of trying to get a studio made at home so I can continue my work. When I was first considering retirement, I thought I might go back to fiber and work with embroidery, something small scale because I didn't consider building a studio. But with Jack Lenor Larson's advice, I am so reinvigorated with this new work that I want to continue it at this scale, so I have to build a studio. I don't have any place in my home right now for me to do work this size. And if I do build a studio, it will approximate the size of the studio space we are occupying at this moment. So that would be the size of my new studio. You can see all the rest of the space over there is storage. [laughs.] And so, I'm going to have to decide where to put my materials and art inventory when I get this new studio. To date I have several options. An architect is drawing up plans and I have another architect who has looked at the site and advised me. Also, I have a sunroom deck builder who has given me an idea, so I'm exploring all of those options. Like I said, if it weren't for Jack Lenore Larson's advice I would not be so invigorated to work again at this scale. I'm thrilled with the new work. It is very different, but at the same time recognizable as my artwork.

KK: Okay. Well thank you so much.

AAS: Thank you Kate. I appreciate being part of the Quilter's Save Our Stories project.

KK: And it is 12:28 p.m., and that ends the Q S.O.S.- Quilter's [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories interview.



“Arturo Sandoval,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 16, 2024,