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Shattered Silk: Anne Strand revives antique quilts in new exhibition

Southside Art Gallery’s latest exhibit by mixed media artist Anne Strand highlights the intricacies of quilting as an artform.

The collection, titled “Shattered Silk,” is a commentary on “icons of feminine visage,” and features pieces of pre-1930s quilts combined with canvas and other collage pieces. Strand says she drew inspiration for the collection from two family quilts in particular.

“Two quilts made by my maternal grandmother and my fraternal great-grandmother inspired me,” Strand said. “They were both beautiful, subtle individual works of art not a rote following of patterns. One hangs in my studio the other won 1st prize in the 1901 Tri-state fair. I realized that both women were unsung artists at a time when their work was not considered fine art.”

Fiber arts, such as quilting, embroidery and knitting, have historically been considered “women’s work,” and only recently have they been presented as a form of artistic expression. Strand admits she is not a quilter or a sewer. Instead, she painted new pieces onto the antique quilt fabric, or for the more fragile elements, incorporated smaller remnants onto canvas combined with sections of famous paintings including “Mona Lisa” and “Girl with One Pearl Earring.”

March is Women’s History Month, and Strand says the collection fits right into the theme of women’s empowerment. Many of her pieces, including “Past and Present,” “Silent Smile” and “The Tear,” symbolize the struggles and triumphs of women throughout history.

“The quilt in this show, with all its complex layering and patterning, is a symbol of the creation in general, specifically of women’s creative endeavors, which have often been silenced,” she said.  “The eyes being separated from the mouths of these feminine icons is symbolic of this experience.”

Strand sourced many of the collection’s elements from the pre-1930s quilt section on Ebay, and says she was inspired by the idea that she could give new life to heirlooms family members no longer cherished.

“Their faded beauty inspired me to bring them out of the hidden cupboards and into the light,” she said. “My treatment of them was an intuitive response to each piece.”

Strand, who is an Episcopal chaplain and retired psychotherapist, currently lives in Selma, Ala., but lived in Oxford for many years prior. “Shattered Silk” is her fourth collection to be displayed at Southside Gallery.

She studied in Paris with abstract expressionist Elaine de Kooning, wife of 20th-century art icon Willem de Kooning. Strand attended the New York Studio School, and earned degrees in art, theology and psychology. She says her work reflects a combination of these three themes.

The process for creating each piece involved embracing the flaws the original quilts garnered over time and using elements from her own collage collection to highlight them.

“The hanging quilts were preserved by painting into the fabric, inserting rag paper images into the flaws, adhering Chinese spirit paper and 20th century weavings or adding eye-like vintage or antique buttons,” she said. “I think that is why at this time in my life I was called to work with other not-so-preserved or wanted aging beauties. Not by stitching or sewing but as the painter and collage artist that I am.”

“Shattered Silk” will be on display at Southside Art Gallery, located at 150 Courthouse Square, from March 6 through 31. For more information, click here.