Many Quilts in Schweinfurth’s Annual Exhibition Tells Stories

Left: Kathy Suprenant of Lawrence, KS, made this quilt, “CELL-fie,” in 2021 out of old lab coats she used as a molecular biology researcher and professor. Right: Maria Shell of Anchorage, AK, created this quilt, “Mosh Pit @ the Golden,” in 2018. It was inspired by mosh pits she saw at a nearby bar.

Many artworks in this year’s Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibition at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn tell a story. The story that Lena Meszaros tells in her piece, “Heritage,” is intensely personal.

Her quilt shows someone in a coat moving swiftly, one arm holding a suitcase. The coat is covered with small patches of different materials, some drawn on and others showing advertisements and canceled stamps. Tiny bags, boxes, and suitcases dangle from an arm and the back of the coat. One small box lies on the ground beneath.

The suitcases and boxes represent the nomadic life of Meszaros’ family throughout Europe. Her father, a Jew whose family is of Polish origin, survived World War II in the ghetto of Budapest, Hungary. Her Russian mother had lived in Siberia before marrying him and moving to Hungary. Meszaros moved to France after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and two of her three daughters have moved to Belgium.

Why a coat? “A coat is the most practical item when you have to leave your house, much more than a suitcase,” Meszaros said in an interview. “You wear it on yourself. It can protect you from the cold. It can serve as a blanket. In the inside pockets, you can bring some food.

“You can hide valuable things in the lining: papers, photos, money or precious stones,” she continued. “These objects are to be sewn inside at the level of the chest, possibly protecting you from bullets when you get shot. A coat like this represents all your history and experience.”

“Quilts=Art=Quilts” is the Schweinfurth’s annual art quilt exhibition, which draws entries from around the world and from Central New York. This year, the 40th anniversary juried show includes 71 quilts from 61 artists, including three from Australia, three from Canada, and one each from France, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

The exhibit opens Oct. 23, 2021, with free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day. The Schweinfurth is expanding its opening to avoid hosting large crowds during a short window of time. All attendees are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. The exhibit runs through Jan. 9, 2022.

In year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease is still having an impact on people’s lives and influencing their art. So it’s no surprise that the virus shows up in at least 11 pieces selected for this year’s show.

Among them is “CELL-fie,” a 2021 quilt that Kathy Suprenant of Lawrence, KS, made from a lab coat she wore when conducting research as a cellular and molecular biologist at the University of Kansas.

Suprenant grew up in Hudson Falls, NY, near the Adirondacks and became a first-generation college graduate. She began making traditional quilts for friends and family as a hobby while teaching and researching at the University of Kansas.

“Most of my research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, involved the study of how normal cells divide in order to understand what goes wrong during abnormal cell division, such as cancer,” she said. “In addition to research, I taught around 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and was the chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences for several years.”

After taking classes with Alice Kettle, Jane Sassaman, Ruth McDowell, and Sian Martin, Suprenant began making art quilts. In 2016, she retired early to begin a new career as a full-time artist.

“I left academia simply because I wanted and needed to make art full time,” she said. “Now my art studio is my place of thinking and making. It is where I ask open-ended questions, ponder the big picture, and learn from failure and celebrate success. I am very happy with this new career path.”

Suprenant’s piece is made from three lab coats with different textures. It features drawn and stitched cells and DNA strands in shades of blue. “Months of COVID-19 isolation led to a disorienting array of drawing, painting and stitching directly onto the quilt surface,” she said in her artist statement.

Kevin Womack of Forest, VA, makes broader social commentary in his piece, “Lament.” It’s his version of a storm flag, which are hung at military bases facing a major storm. “In 2020, the USA saw constant strife, inequality, increasing sickness and death,” he said in his artist statement. “We were mired in misinformation and bombarded by hateful rhetoric in the midst of a storm brewing for more than four years.

“The stoking of discord, lack of empathy and promotion of division during that time may have left deep wounds to our union,” he continued. “‘Lament’ is my 2020 storm flag -- my cry for help and expression of grief at what we have become. Its mourning veil attempts to conceal the damage done, but contains stains, which I fear are permanent.”

Some quilts offer uplifting messages. Canadian Bill Stearman of Picton, Ontario, began working on his quilt, “Finding Comfort in the Unknown,” in the two weeks before his liver transplant.

“I was filled with so many thoughts, feelings, emotions, scenarios and I just decided that I needed to find a way to be rid of all of that, and to focus on finding comfort,” he said in his statement. “Making this piece brought comfort, and it continues to bring me comfort as I settle in with its softness.”

The quilt is now a pleasant reminder that he is cancer free.

“Quilts=Art=Quilts” runs from Oct. 23, 2021, through Jan. 9, 2022. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays from Oct. 23, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022. Admission is $10 per person; members, participating artists, and children 12 and under are free. For those who cannot visit the exhibit, a virtual tour will be available on our website on Oct. 28, 2021.

If You Go …
WHAT: “Quilts=Art=Quilts” exhibition
WHEN: Oct. 23, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022
WHERE: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays
COST: $10 per person; members, participating artists, and children 12 and under free
OPENING: Free admission all day Oct. 23, 2021
ALSO SHOWING: “Marks Made,” an exhibition of fiber art by Christine Mauersberger

Artist Talks Online
The Schweinfurth Art Center is offering online trunk shows by artists in “Quilts=Art=Quilts 2021.” The video series will be released on our website, YouTube channel, and social media on the following Sundays:
Nov. 20, 2021: Fuzzy Mall
Nov. 27, 2021: Helen Geglio
Dec. 4, 2021: Kevin Womack
Dec. 11, 2021: Irene Roderick

Participating Artists
Margaret Abramshe; St. George, UT; "Shoes and Ships," 2021
Mary Alexander; Hubbard, OH; "Sun's Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday," 2020
Liz Anderson; Fayetteville, NY; "Sweetie Pie Guy," 2021
Astrid Hilger Bennett; Iowa City, IA; "Dreaming Quilts #5: Summer Light," 2020
Deb Berkebile; Conneaut, OH; "Riveting," 2019
Margaret Black; Boswell, PA; "Curb Appeal 17" (2019) and "Curb Appeal 36" (2020)
Deborah Boschert; Lewisville, TX; "Cuts and Bruises," 2020
Anna Brown; Bungwahl, Australia; "FLORA Canopy 19," 2020
Laurie Bucher; Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; "Heart Rush," 2020
Betty Busby; Albuquerque, NM; "Blue Wave," 2021
Susan Byrnes; Brooklyn, NY; "Drawing III," 2019
Shin-hee Chin; McPherson, KS; "Komorebi," 2019
Anna Chupa; Easton, PA; "Aviary Queen," 2019
Rachel Clarke; Syracuse, NY; "What Is Essential Is Invisible to the Eye," 2021
Sue LaWall Cortese; Holland, MI; "Kumo XII:Contained Energy," 2021
Rebecca Cynamon-Murphy; Wheaton, IL; "Quilt for the Unknown Maker," 2020
Barbara Danzi; New York, NY; "Orange Crush," 2021
Deb Deaton; Surprise, AZ; "Ethereal," 2021
Petra Fallaux; Pittsburgh, PA; "Polder Horizon #1" and "Night Horizon #3," both made in 2021
Diana Fox; Parker, CO; "Gifts from the Universe Series: Coral Reef," 2021
Helen Geglio; South Bend, IN; "Anxiety Shield: Force Field" and "Anxiety Shield: Vigil," both made in 2021
Julia Graziano; Manlius, NY; "Don't Cross Me," 2020
Debbie Grifka; Ann Arbor, MI; "Chaos and Calm," 2020
Barbara Oliver Hartman; Flower Mound, TX; "Help: Blood and Chaos," 2018
Judy Hooworth; Morisset NSW, Australia; "Creek Drawing #17" and "Down the Creek: Twenty-Eight Sketches," both made in 2021
Maren Johnston; Santa Barbara, CA; "Gourds," 2019
Patty Kennedy-Zafred; Murrysville, PA; "Warriors in the White House," 2020
Jill Kerttula; Charlottesville, VA; "Dystopia in the Time of the Dog Toy Virus," 2020
Judy Kirpich; Lewes, DE; "Indigo Composition No. 10" (2019) and "Indigo Composition No.14" (2021)
Anna Faye Korngute; Pacific Palisades, CA; "Movement Three" (2019) and "The Red Line" (2020)
Susan Lapham; Vienna, VA; "Playland #6" and "Playland #3," both made in 2020
Mary-Ellen Latino; Nipomo, CA; "The World Is Watching! #3," 2020
Lynne Lee; Toronto, Canada; "Kimono #3 Winds Flowing for Clarity," 2021
Jane Lloyd; Ballymena, Northern Ireland; "Electromagnetic Waves," 2021
Niraja Lorenz; Eugene, OR; "Churnings," 2018
Fuzzy Mall; Dundas, Canada; "Ryan Stephenson," 2021
Jeanne Marklin; Williamstown, MA; "Wildlife 3000," 2021
Valerie Maser-Flanagan; Carlisle, MA; "Up the Rabbit Hole #2," 2018
Diane Melms; Anchorage, AK; "Thrill Ride," 2018
Lena Meszaros; Orsay, France; "Heritage," 2020
Mandy Miller; Eugene, OR; "Story Time," 2020
Carol Miraben; Santa Fe, NM; "Teal," 2020
Kathy Nida; El Cajon, CA; "Womanscape," 2018
Pat Pauly; Rochester, NY; "Bondi Beach," 2020
Julia Pfaff; Richmond, VA; "Artifact 4.1" (2019) and "Artifact 4.2" (2020)
Paula Rafferty; Ballysimon, Ireland; "Pumphouse 1," 2021
Denise Roberts; Albright, WV; "MITOTE #18," 2020
Susan Robinson; Clayville, NY; "Forever Summer," 2020
Irene Roderick; Austin, TX; "Viola da Gamba" (2020) and "Celebration of Indigo" (2021)
Roxanne Schwartz; Berkeley, CA; "Groundswell," 2020
Maria Shell; Anchorage, AK; "Mosh Pit @ the Golden," 2018
Brenda Gael Smith; Copacabana, Australia; "Acuity #5: Zemblanity," 2020
Jim Smoote; Chicago, IL; "Matthew," 2021
Petra Soesemann; Wooster, OH; "Saturn's Hexagon," 2018
Bill Stearman; Picton, Canada; "Finding Comfort in the Unknown," 2021
Kathy Suprenant; Lawrence, KS; "CELL-fie," 2021
Janet Swigler; Columbia, SC; "Nothing Stays the Same," 2019
Jan Tetzlaff; Bend, OR; "Medina-Marrakech," 2021
Shari Werner; New York, NY; "Connected: Vessels," 2019
Libby Williamson; Villa Park, CA; "Burn Cycles," 2020
Kevin Womack; Forest, VA; "Lament" and "Equilibrium," both made in 2020

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