Milton Friedman

Now online: A quilt show takes on ecocide, consumerism, and capitalism

Fiber artists explore the toll plastics and the "invisible hand" are taking on the oceans in an exhibit in Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center

Update: With the coronavirus shutdown, the Chehalem Cultural Center has made its exhibits available online. To see the “Shifting Tides” show, go here.

One does not instinctively think of politics and protest when a quilt show appears in a local gallery, which is why the latest exhibit at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg may catch you off guard. Perhaps the stereotype ignores the versatility to be found in the textile arts, but I suspect that for most people, a quilt conjures up feelings of comfort, warmth, and security —  exactly the opposite of what Shifting Tides: Convergence in Cloth by Studio Art Quilt Associates has to offer.

Shifting Tides, which fills three of the Chehalem Center’s galleries and runs through April 27, is a penetrating look at the planet’s ecological predicament, particularly as manifested in the oceans. It could not come at a more appropriate moment. My visit last week coincided with the publication of a horrifying 7,163-word piece in Rolling Stone: Tim Dickinson’s Planet Plastic: How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades. It landed in my Facebook news feed just hours before I visited the exhibit, and the introduction highlights the show’s relevance. “Every human on Earth,” Dickinson declares in the opening sentence, “is ingesting nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week.” It gets worse from there.

“Rings of Eternity,” by Lisa Jenni (33 by 41 inches), incorporates plastic rings from bottles and jugs into its design. Photo by: David Bates

It’s appropriate — no, necessary — then, that many of the more than 40 pieces featured in Shifting Tides actually incorporate plastic. Juried by Ann Johnson of West Linn and overseen by a national panel, the show is an official regional exhibit by Studio Art Quilt Associates based in Hebron, Conn. The program notes make clear what many of the associated textile artists are thinking about:

“As residents of the greater North Pacific region, fiber artists share personal narratives and statements regarding the Pacific Ocean ecosystem, its marvelous natural diversity, and the human activities that both sustain and threaten it. The exhibit is an artistic convergence, where quilting and surface design techniques come together into stunning works of contemporary textile art. The wide variety of viewpoints and artistic styles will delight and challenge viewers to assess their own perceptions regarding the interplay of oceanic and human communities.”

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