Columbus Dispatch (OH)
/ KENY GALLERIES
Spirit Unites carvings, Amish quilts
Melissa Starker For The Columbus
Visions of Spirituality," a new show of vintage Amish quilts and Elijah
Pierce carvings in Keny Galleries, was formed not just by a common theme but
by a shared place in the personal collection of gallery co-owner Tim Keny.
wife) Karen and I have collected Amish quilts since the mid-1980s and
collected Pierce since the early '80s," he said.
he lived with the pieces, Keny spotted a visual kinship between Pierce's work,
particularly his later carvings, and the fiber art of Amish quilters in
Pennsylvania and Ohio from the first part of the 20th century.
of the reasons why Pierce is one of the best folk artists in the country is
that he distills information," Keny said.
me, his flattened forms relate in many ways to the quilts. There's a
simplicity and elegance in each."
in the 1960s and '70s, the biblical and angelic scenes represent Pierce at a
point when his style was established, his subject was comfortable and the
effects of age were stripping his carving choices to the essentials.
full of lush red roses and other verdant flora, and the consistent presence of
Jesus or angels with enveloping wingspans. In many of the works, such as Sermon
on the Mount or Christ With Angel, celestial light is conjured
through a spray of glitter or a sweep of metallic gold paint.
quilts -- stitched from about 1900 to 1940 by Amish women in Pennsylvania and
Holmes County, Ohio -- represent a vastly different form of spiritual
expression. In works such as the Log Cabin Crib quilt, a predominance
of muted colors and strongly ordered designs reflect a concept of spirituality
rooted in conformity and humility before God. Nonetheless, some individuality
emerges in each.
Keny pointed out, "There's a spirit of humility in the community, but
these are people expressing themselves. That tension is fascinating."
tension flutters subtly in the Diamond in the Square quilt, a
minimalist combination of tone and pattern that reveals, on closer inspection,
stitched flourishes of baskets, fruits and flowers. It leaps out of the
similarly patterned Nine Patch/Diamond in the Square quilt through a
contrast of black and lipstick red, which lends a hint of scandal to the
technically sublime work.
intriguing balance of humility and creativity is found in the Ocean Waves
quilt, a piece made in Ohio between 1925 and 1935. The pattern and color
choices are relatively austere, but, with some thoughtful color placement, the
quilter creates a visual effect that anticipates op art at least 30 years
before Time magazine coined the term.
"Two Visions of Spirituality" continues through Feb. 10 in Keny
Galleries, 300 E. Beck St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Call 614-464-1228 or visit