Words and Photos by Olivia Bauso
This weekend we’ll be warming up the Gallery Room walls with handmade quilts. Seriously! Our next featured artist specializes in fiber art and will present several quilted installations, including pieces from previous exhibitions.
Recent (2016) RIT MFA grad, now RIT adjunct professor, Emily Bellinger has been quilting for about eight years now, and making art for as long as she can remember. As she puts it, “I probably started drawing as soon as I could pick up a utensil.” Her mother, a quilter, taught her to sew at a young age, but Emily always pushed away the urge to pick it up herself. However, one summer during her undergraduate years, Emily embarked on an upholstery project which in turn lead to sewing her first piece. After patching together pieces of fabric for the first time, Emily thought, “This is so much fun! I’m making something that’s beautiful and artistic, but also functional.” And she never stopped.
Her upcoming show, Mixed Emotions, will take from the themes established in Emily’s MFA thesis show: memory, relationship, intimacy and the emotions associated. Mixed Emotions will include a fiber installation titled S h a t t e r ed, a shattered quilt that serves as Emily’s “big visual heartbreak” from a previous relationship, and a printed installation titled I Remember Your Caresses, which symbolizes the memory of human touch and intimacy. The show will also premiere new pieces that build on the same abstract conceptual foundations and round out the series.
Emily began her art education as a print maker, and first made the jump to fiber art through printing on her own fabrics. She explains, “I just got really into that tangible element of quilting and sewing; I kind of dove in deep.” But, this jump brought adversity to Emily’s artistic journey, as many believe quilting is craft, not art. “So,” Emily says, “I had to really find a way to defend myself, and ended up making a lot of conceptual fiber pieces.”
Over time, Emily has “trained” herself to find meaning within her quilts. She says, “I kind of make first and think about it after.” With her thesis collection in particular, she explains, “I put those pieces together and then asked myself, ‘What does this mean?’ Then I had deep discussions with my friends about it over a couple of drinks and realized I knew what it was.” Now, every time Emily makes something, it’s pretty easy for her to find what it means, and what it could mean.
Poetry has worked as a significant inspiration for Emily’s past and recent work. Sometimes, it even becomes the work. Using old books and oil pastels, Emily creates block-out poetry, pulling her own meaning from the pages she is given. Emily likens this to quilting, in a way: “With quilts I’m always given material and I find a way to put it together-- without a pattern. With poetry, it’s easier for me to sort of quilt the page and find which bits I want to showcase than to write it myself.” Poster-sized prints of Emily’s block-out poems will be presented in the show to visually and conceptually tie in the fabric pieces.
Concept was emphasized through much of Emily’s education, so she’s excited to be making in a new setting. She says, “I have more freedom in this show without the restraints of an academic setting. A lot of my new pieces are concept light and visual heavy, which I’m more interested in.” This show has also given Emily the opportunity to craft quilts she’s always wanted to make, but didn’t have a place for until now. “This is my opportunity to play more and have fun with creating these abstract fabric paintings,” Emily explains.
Emily aims to reach a wider audience with her pieces, and to expose Rochester to fiber art as a whole. Her work is saturated with emotion, and is sure to touch viewers. Emily’s handmade zipper pouches, her side gig, can be bought on Etsy or seen on her Instagram page, along with more of her work. She thanks her cats, her lint roller and bad TV shows on Netflix for helping her through the making process.
Join us on Saturday, January 21st from 6:00-9:00pm for Mixed Emotions: A collection of works by Emily Bellinger in the Gallery Room. Refreshments will be served!