Fermilab art gallery exhibit showcases a rising art form

“Shimmering Foliage” is one of several nature and science-themed quilts on display in the Fermilab Art Gallery through Jan. 20. Photo: Frieda Anderson

Editor’s note: An artist reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. today in the Fermilab Art Gallery.

A violent particle collision ignites a heated core, spurring brilliant streams of color in every direction and unveiling the mysterious Higgs boson, as imagined by the art piece titled “The Heart of the Matter.” The story was fused and embroidered by artist Susan Jackan into an art form rising in popularity: the quilt.

“Stitched Together – Art & Science: Art Quilts by Midwestern Artists,” now in the Fermilab Art Gallery, is showcasing 28 quilts referencing science and nature. The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 12. Themes range from endangered sea turtles to string theory. One quilt even has a matrix barcode that can be deciphered by smart phones.

Artist Laura Wasilowski channels warm memories of a prairie near her childhood home in Minnesota for her piece titled “Chicory.”

“It’s about the origins of who we are,” she said, in reference to the general motif of fundamental sciences in the quilts.

Wasilowski is an artist and representative of the Studio Art Quilters Association (SAQA), which promotes the art quilt through education, exhibitions, publications and professional development. The show is done in partnership with the Pacific Art Quilters Alliance, a regionally-based group promoting fiber art development.

Wasilowski creates her quilts most often through an improvisational approach, starting with hand-dyed fabrics. She would then work in the direction that the shapes and colors inspire her. For a quilt like “Chicory,” she would invest at least 40 hours of work.

“The quilt is a piece of art and not for the bed,” said Frieda Anderson, a representative also from SAQA. “People are expressing their ideas on fabric in many ways.”

Anderson’s comparatively enormous nature-inspired quilt, “Shimmering Foliage,” took about four weeks to create.

Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery, felt the quilts would find the right audience at Fermilab.

“I didn’t want to have an exhibit of traditional quilts,” Schwender said. “I wanted to tie in the artwork with the state-of-the-art science we do here.”

Brad Hooker