Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fire and Energy : The Art Quilts of Barbara Olson

An award-winning artist, teacher, and quilter from the Pacific Northwest, Barbara Olson creates captivating quilts that are famous for their high-chroma color combinations and dynamic sense of movement. Next month (May 2010) Barbara will be a featured artist and teacher at the Denver National Quilt Festival. We're pleased to be able to show a few of Barbara’s dynamic works of art, below.

City of Midnight Sun,101 x 101

City of the Midnight Sun won the Best of Show award at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in California in 2007. Barbara machine-pieced, appliquéd, quilted, and embellished it. She shows us a city in the distance, surrounded by a circular pathway, which draws our eye to the the center of the quilt. Because the buildings seem so far away, they have almost a mythical, allegorical quality to them, as if they exist in another time and space.

The sunburst, flaming aura, and blue border- comprised of thousands of tiny appliqued pieces - leads us to imagine that we are viewing this scene from a vantage point in deep space, as we travel through space. Barbara has used the complementary colors of medium blue and golden yellow to provide maximum contrast, as well as juxtaposing the circular, flickering halo next to the straight lines of what might very well be trails of comets or stardust.

Peacock Flower, 36 x 36

Peacock Flower is one of Barbara’s recent works. This quilt’s stunning beauty is due in part to the contrasts which immediately capture the viewer’s eye. Vividly cool monochromatic blues, turquoises, and aquas are displayed against a blazing sunset of yellow, orange, and pink. The fabric is cut into many curves and wave-like shapes to give the impression of a gigantic blossom undulating languidly in the wind. However the center of the flower is embellished by a beautiful pointed, embroidered, red and pink star, which is a form of thread painting.

Atlantis: An Ancient Message, 78 x 78

In this quilt, the viewer peers through an imaginary looking glass or keyhole to behold an enchanted city, rising from the mist. Tall buildings contrast with gentle curves of the surrounding pieces. They seem like swirling veils which drift apart to allow us to view a scene from another era. Barbara has used striped and streaked borders to give us a sense of moving through time and dimension, as passing objects fly past. Atlantis was the winner of the Visions of Tomorrow category of the Millennium Contest A Quilt for the Year 2000, sponsored by E.E. Schenck/Maywood Studios.

In addition to her inspirational workshops, Barbara is the author of Journey of an Art Quilter, a colorful motivational book that provides cutting edge techniques. In her new DVD, Jumpstart Your Creativity, Barbara shares her methods for creating breathtaking quilts. The DVD is available on her website, here.

Image credits: Images are courtesy of Barbara Olson.

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