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Contemporary male quilt artists bring unique aesthetic and provocative subject matter to a traditional craft
Falwell Quilt #2, Shawn Quinlan, handpainted fabric, commercial fabrics, 2007. Courtesy of the artist.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Craft & Folk Art Museum presents Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters, the first museum exhibition in Los Angeles that examines the unique aesthetics and techniques that men bring to a craft long-associated with feminine arts and labor. With backgrounds in contemporary visual art, media, and fashion, the eight artists featured in the exhibition have been identified as leading makers whose quilts act as non-functional art pieces. Curated by CAFAM Executive Director Suzanne Isken, Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters is on view from January 25 through May 3, 2015.

Though quilting is culturally viewed as “women’s work,” men have participated in quilting since the early 1800s in both professional and domestic capacity. The art quilt movement developed in the 1980s as a practice akin to painting, led by professional artists rather than domestic makers.

The eight exhibiting artists are part of a loosely-knit, growing community of male quilters whose quilts utilize striking imagery and compositions to navigate their interests and concerns. Though there are innumerable male quilters nationwide, these artists were selected as significant contributors to the evolution of the quilting medium through their unique training and experiences in visual, media, and design arts.

“I was interested in how all these artists were very conscious of their gender identity when they took up quilting,” says curator Suzanne Isken. “To some degree, they all felt they had to address their maleness by making quilts with cement or about heavy metal or about sexual preference; but their prior training as painters, ceramic artists, scientists, videographers or the like became just as significant, bringing great energy and distinctiveness to the objects they create.”

Artists Dan Olfe and Joel Otterson are notable for utilizing new materials and technologies in quilting. Olfe is a retired professor of engineering who conceptualizes his quilts using the same 3D design software used by video game designers, while Otterson is known for making “quilts” out of concrete.

Aaron McIntosh’s quilts play with heteronormative ideas of sexual identity that are propagated through mass media images. Shawn Quinlan’s quilts conflate acerbic commentary with provocative imagery from television and popular culture.

Artists like Ben Venom and Jimmy McBride meld their MFA training with their personal interests. Venom makes hand-sewn quilts using heavy metal iconography with concert t-shirts and leather jackets, while McBride’s quilts act as narratives depicting the science fiction adventures of a “space trucker with too much time on his hands.”

Artists Joe Cunningham and Luke Haynes both use an industrial longarm sewing machine that is programmable and able to accommodate large sizes. Cunningham’s quilts are often responses to current events and natural disasters, while Haynes creates iconic portraits of his friends sourced from renowned American paintings.

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