Nancy Crow

Nancy Crow

DRAWINGS: MONOPRINTS and RIFFS showcases two types of contemporary quiltmaking created by artist Nancy Crow in the period of 2011-2020. During this time, Crow focused on monoprints and machine-pieced quilts. All are explorations of color and balance, form and texture, visual tension and meaning. Crow considers these works to be quilted drawings.

The drawing inherent in Crow’s machine-pieced quilts is a process of strength and freedom, as she uses the natural swing of her arm and hand to manipulate a rotary cutter to create long, fluid lines. The sometimes graceful and sometimes quirky lines are transformed on her design wall, without a preconceived plan, into powerful sequenced images with a vibrating tension. Crow deliberately challenges herself to create large pieces that grab the viewer’s attention.

Crow’s drawing takes form in her monoprints series in marks she carves from a layer of thickened dye applied to a flat surface. In a lightning-quick process she creates tangles of lines, curves and shadows that result in pieces with a tangible depth and dimension. The process is laborious and fraught with potential errors that result in blurred lines and smudged spotting, with numerous pieces relegated to the studio floor before they have dried.

Crow titled her monoprints “Self-Portraits” in recognition of the inner struggle she grappled with while committing to a rigid schedule of eight to ten hour days, one after another, embracing the uncomfortable and often frustrating process of learning a new craft. The results, a culmination of more than two years of determined and intensive effort “are focused, forceful images of her soul.”

I AM WALKING THE WALK.
TOTALLY FOCUSED.
PAYING ATTENTION.
TO BED EARLY. UP EARLY.
10-12 HOUR DAYS.
COMPUTER TIME REDUCED TO 30 MINUTES PER DAY.
NO PHONES IN THE STUDIO.
ALL NECESSARY PREPARATIONS PREDICATED ON EFFICIENCY.
WET STUDIO ORGANIZED.
USING THE FEWEST TOOLS TO FACILITATE MARK-MAKING.
STACKS OF FABRICS PREPARED.
CORRALLING THOUGHTS.
GOING FORWARD.
MAKING MISTAKES.
NOT LOOKING BACK.
LEARNING.
LOOSENING UP.
FEELING THE THRILL. DAY AFTER DAY.
KEEPING THE ROUTINE.
SHORT ONES. LONG ONES.
SELF-PORTRAITS OF WHO I AM.

Click Here for a virtual guided tour of this exhibition.

NOTICE: No photography in this exhibition, please.
Photographs of this exhibition may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

About the Artist

About the Artist
About the Artist

Nancy Crow has been a leader in contemporary quiltmaking since the 1970s. In 1999 she was elected a fellow of the American Craft Council and in 2019, she received the Master of the Medium Award from The James Renwick Alliance, the support arm of The Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Crow lives in Ohio, with her ever-patient friend, partner, and husband John Stitzlein.

Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments
Acknowledgments

I am truly fortunate to be able to acknowledge the following people:

  • John Stitzlein, my husband of 55 years, who has always believed in me! He helped lift all sizes of fabric up, over, and down and then up again for most of my monoprints. He continues to go up and down tall ladders pinning up my large machine-pieced works so I can study them. He is my best friend and support!
  • Ginie Curtze, dear long-time friend and supporter of my career, who oversaw the first exhibition of my monoprints in Germany. The two of us have worked together eight years directing and curating the COLOR IMPROVISATIONS EXHIBITIONS in Germany and other parts of Europe.
  • Margaret Wolf, dear long-time friend and artist, for helping me lift fabric, up, over, and down for some of my monoprints.
  • Mary Crow, my sister and a poet, for writing a new poem just for the catalog about beginning anew with all of its travails.
  • Jean Robertson for taking the time to interview me for her eloquent catalog essay that captures so many dynamics that surrounded me emotionally in these nine years of work.
  • David Hornung for writing the catalog Foreword seeking the essence of my work.
  • J Kevin Fitzsimons, my professional photographer, who has chronicled my work over the past 30+ years.
  • Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan, UK artists and teachers, for early guidance in how to monoprint.
  • Beth Schillig for machine quilting the earliest monoprints as I specified.
  • Julia Graziano for machine quilting many of the later monoprints as I specified and some of my machine pieced works.
  • Marina Baudoin for machine quilting some of my machine pieced RIFFS as I specified.
  • Sharon Vitt for machine quilting later monoprints as I specified and my machine pieced works as I specified.
  • Paul Smith, Director of The American Craft Museum (now called The Museum of Art & Design/NYC) for believing in me early in my career and supporting me all the way. His support meant so much to me.
  • All of my long-time students who have challenged me both intellectually and creatively.
  • Amy Ebekka for designing such a first-rate catalogue for my solo show.
  • And a final huge thank you to Leslie Levy, Director, and Carolyn Ducey, Curator of Collections, of the International Quilt Museum for committing to this large exhibition with its accompanying catalog and following through with such thoroughness. I am thrilled and forever grateful!

Nancy Crow
July 8, 2020

SEEKING Solitude . . . Calm . . . Silence

SEEKING Solitude . . . Calm . . . Silence
SEEKING Solitude . . . Calm . . . Silence

At some point, it was very, very clear to me that these monoprints, all of them, were indeed my self-portraits. Presented as tangles of lines representing my constant anxiety, they also represented curvilinear daydreams or masses of parallel lines exuding calmness . . . so often elusive. They are revelatory. They are raw emotions. I pause to think, “Who is this person really? Who is the person who made them? Do I know her? Can I trust her?”

Nancy Crow
June 10, 2020

MAKING MONOPRINTS

MAKING MONOPRINTS
MAKING MONOPRINTS

I chose to explore monoprinting because:
It is a direct process, which I like very much.
It allows me to practice drawing on a large scale.
It pushes my brain into different configurations.
It challenges me.
It gives me options, which I am just beginning to explore.

The Process: A Steep Learning Curve

  1. I cut, numbered, and dated hundreds of pieces of 100% cotton fabric in preparation for dyeing, while accounting for how much each size would shrink during the washout process. The numbering and dating show my development as I matured in my understanding of how to use the very distinct techniques of monoprinting.
  2. I next soaked all of these cotton pieces in a soda ash solution . . . many times twice. Soda ash reacts with the cellulose fiber causing the dye to become permanent.
  3. I drew marks, using thickened dye, on a large flat sheet of water-impenetrable material. I had to learn how much water was needed to get the correct thickness of the Procion MX dye. This is super important! Although the dye has to be evenly hydrated so it will print, it cannot contain so much water that all of the marks run together in a pool or splotch. It took me a huge number of hours of experimenting to create the required thickness of dye that would hold the marks and not run or blur!
  4. Using a variety of different marking tools I specially designed, I created a wide variety of marks in different scale variations. I began each print by using the finest to first create a “ground” of texture. Then, over top of it, I changed to the next larger scale of marker to create stronger lines and curves. For any given monoprint, I may have used from two to six marking tools to create layers knowing all the while I was partially obscuring what came before.
  5. Once all of my drawing was done and before I printed the drawing on cotton, I would climb a tall ladder in order to look down over the top of my composition to see if the figure/ground tension was dynamic enough to suit me, and to see if the markings were as clear as I could make them. If not, I began again. For every drawing I printed, I destroyed anywhere from two to ten drawings!
  6. Once I was happy with a drawing, John Stitzlein, my husband and assistant, and I picked up a piece of the soda soaked cotton, pulled it tightly between us and carefully stretched it over the top of the table, placing the corners of the cloth down to match taped corners on the table. A successful print must be made within three minutes of completing the marks or the marks pool back together, erasing the drawing.
  7. Once printed, my husband and I moved the cloth to another room and table where it was spread to “cure” for at least 24 hours or up to a week depending on the heat and humidity in the wet rooms. The more of each, the better and faster the print cured.
  8. Next, the monoprint had to be rinsed in cold water over and over to reduce the excess dye in the cotton. Then the monoprint had to be rinsed in scalding water to get out the final residues of dye. I stood on a step stool over my stove, stirring each monoprint in a very tall kettle. This took hours of work over days.
  9. Once all of the monoprints were rinsed thoroughly and dried in a dryer, I pinned them up on the long walls in my dry studio, all in sequence, so I could study my progress. I left them hanging for weeks so I could think about them unconsciously. I always find my reasoning powers about art to be more acute when I am not trying to be so intellectual about what I am seeing.
  10. Once I determined which ones were the very best pieces of the newest monoprints, I over-dyed some while leaving most as black/white graphic results. Finally, those I liked best were machine-quilted with patterning that ghosted the already existing line work.

Nancy Crow
June 24, 2020

MONOPRINTS

MONOPRINTS
MONOPRINTS

Learning the process of mono-printing became a very insistent goal for me sometime in 2010-2011. My intense interest was to learn to print not on paper but on cotton fabric. I wanted to “draw” on fabric. I wanted an “immediacy.”

In four separate sessions, I made over 200 monoprints. These works are presented in sequence so you can follow my progress as they become overlaid and covered with vastly more intense mark-making due to playing with iterations in size and value scales.

Nancy Crow
April 24, 2020

QUILT: CONSTRUCTIONS

QUILT: CONSTRUCTIONS
QUILT: CONSTRUCTIONS

To gain the control I needed in my machine piecing, I taught myself to cut toward myself so that I could watch the edge of the razor-sharp blade as it sliced through the fabric. This would be akin to watching the tip of a pencil or pen while drawing on paper. Thus, my cutting became "a form of drawing." It took many, many hours of practice for the muscles of my hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders to learn how to work together on cutting in this very specific way. Finally, I had to learn how to coordinate all of this with my eye while it focused on figure/ground tension at all times.

Nancy Crow
June 23, 2020

RIFFS

RIFFS
RIFFS

As a young child, I was an explorer and a dreamer. I would walk to the fields and hills way beyond our house. My mother would admonish me with a hard shake of her finger: “Don't go near the railroad tracks!”

Every time I heard the train whistle during the night, I felt sure that the train would be coming through the window of my bedroom to run over me.

Nancy Crow
April 24, 2020

DRAWING: RIFFS

DRAWING: RIFFS
DRAWING: RIFFS

The railroad signs with their graphic diagonal cross, coupled with my over-the-top imagination, imprinted deeply on me…so I included them as I moved into my series titled DRAWING: RIFFS.

The premise of my machine-pieced works is about “drawing”—my type of drawing—drawing in fabric. It relies on the natural swing of my arm as I cut through fabrics with a very sharp blade. As I cut, my eye follows edges of cuts and widths of lines along a 44” corridor. As the lines accumulate, I pin them in sequences that produce a type of patterning that appeals to my soul. The imagery is all about emotion and tension for me.

Nancy Crow
April 24, 2020

Gallery Photos

Gallery Photos
Gallery Photos
Support for this exhibition has been provided by the following sponsors, and by contributions from visitors like you: May Ann Beavers Fund for Public Programming and Outreach, Robert and Ardis James Foundation, Friends of the International Quilt Museum, Nebraska Arts Council/Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov for more information.
Event Date
Tuesday, August 4, 2020 to Sunday, March 7, 2021