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Posted on Mon, May 28, 2012 : 5:32 a.m.

Quilt exhibit explores the culture of Mexico

By John Carlos Cantu


“Viva la Pinata” by Michelle Hudson

This year’s 13th annual Michigan Quilt Artists Invitational is a bit sun-baked and spicy. These “South of the Border” quilts feature subjects that must relate in some manner to Latin American topics, and the fun is seeing how these artists accomplish that.

A traveling exhibition that will tour of our state until the end of the year, “South of the Border” is the latest of this group’s annual theme shows. This year’s format follows the same pattern as previous shows: Each quilt must be 20” x 24” in size and hang on a sleeve. But after this, anything goes.

Ann Arbor quiltmakers out of the 57 talents on display include Barbara Bushey, Sonja Hagen, Gretchen Neal Jackson, Linda Larsen and Carol Sue Wineman. Other regional quilters include Brighton’s Cindy Cillick Geist and Carol Bird Riffe; Canton’s Christine Popoff; Plymouth’s Lynn Krawczyk and Meena Schaldenbrand; and Pinckney’s Nancy Baillargeon.

Featuring idyllic scenery and classic themes, “South of the Border” explores Latin America’s many delights with the same verve and inventiveness of past Michigan Quilt Artists shows.

Like prior themes, this year’s topic has lent itself to novel interpretations. Goodrich’s Robbie Payne has, for example, opted to celebrate country singer Gene Autry’s famed “South of the Border” song through a faithful interpretation of that single’s colorful sleeve. Kathleen Campau of Harrison Township has contributed a playful handful of human skulls in her “Papel Picado” that reflects this perforated paper artform used during Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) holiday. And Michelle Hudson’s “Viva la Pinata” brightly illustrates this Holly quiltmaker’s interpretation of a children’s papier-mache pony raining candy as it is split in half by a stick.


“Mayan Snake Pyramid” by Nancy Baillargeon

My favorite artwork in this year’s exhibit is “Mayan Snake Pyramid” by Baillargeon. This gray-tinged masterwork is crafted around the magnificent pre-Columbian “El Castillo” (Kukulkan) temple in the heart of Chichen Itza (located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula). Baillargeon has sewn this stolid monumental architectural sanctuary in the heart of her quilt surrounded by snakes and a jaguar—both creatures of supreme Mayan mythological significance—but the reverence and the nobility is all hers.

“South of the Border: the 13th Annual Exhibit of the Michigan Quilt Artists” will continue through June 11 at the University of Michigan Health System Gifts of Art Gallery—University Hospital Taubman North Lobby, Floor 1, 1500 E. Medical Center Dr. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily. For information, call (734) 936-ARTS.


Dog Guy

Tue, May 29, 2012 : 3 a.m.

"My favorite artwork in this year's exhibit is 'Mayan Snake Pyramid' by Baillargeon. . . . this stolid monumental architectural sanctuary". Kukulkan (feathered serpent) demanded that parents have their children sacrificed to appease his wrath. This is not my idea of "sanctuary".