The Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum, located in La Conner, currently features fiber art by 13 Korean artists.
Organized by Misik Kim and Patti King, this collective exhibition is entitled The Quilt Road: Contemporary Korean Quilts, on view until June 26. The featured artists have a common experience of taking the quilting specialist course at Sookmyung Women’s University Museum, located in Seoul.
The exhibition highlights an eclectic body of work created with a delicate touch and careful attention to detail. The museum’s website states of the exhibition: “Methods and materials used to work with textiles are becoming more diverse, and the demand for and execution of artistic production is gradually expanding beyond genres. You will experience Korean quilting life in a new light through the continuity of past, present and future.
Although each artist’s works possess a distinct voice and unique thematic symbolism, they all share immaculate craftsmanship.
An enduring art form, the Korean pojagi quilt technique originated centuries ago. The earliest documented record of Pojagi dates back to AD 42, around 2,000 years ago.
Predating Western quilting methods, Pojogi has maintained its longevity through the ages. In ancient Korea, the most widely available fabrics were cotton, silk, and ramie (from nettle fibers and similar to hemp and linen).
In addition to decorative uses and accessories, Pojagi is commonly used to wrap, transport and store items. Traditionally, there were different class-specific styles, colors, and techniques for making Pojagi. Generally, the patterns and shapes of the fabric were irregular and arranged in a variety of mosaic-like patterns, often resembling stained glass when held up against the light.
Contemporary pojagi has continued to evolve as an art form. Some of the quilts featured in this exhibit have a stunning, almost photorealistic quality, depicting landscapes, animals and portraits. Others embody a more abstract or surreal approach, equally impressive in their intricate designs. Their motives are diverse. There are many memorably surprising and unexpected quilts.
For example, Spiderman hanging upside down above a wonderfully abstract nighttime cityscape. Another quilt features a tiger rendered in a vivid psychedelic palette. The portraits of people are moving and original.
Many artists refer to the influence of the pandemic on their exhibited works in their artist statements. The artist statement on a personal favorite, titled “Mother’s Arms” by artist Cho Hyunjoo, reads:I thought of a HAVEN that wasn’t in a pandemic. It would still be warm and cozy. This quilt immediately caught my eye when I walked into the room, creating a welcoming presence and a sense of warm light with its circular patterns of gradient pastels.
The beautiful quilt on the wall opposite “Mother’s Arms” is titled “Spring Garden” and is meticulously sewn from a vibrant and luxurious collection of Hanbok fabrics. Yoon Hyngae’s statement for “Spring Garden” reads, “I came up with the idea because I randomly found Hanbok fabric. I put my heart into expressing brightness and warmth, like the spring energy. With this heat, I hope the difficult times will go away…”
While creating elaborate quilts in this centuries-old tradition is a tribute to Korea and an expression of national pride in itself, one artist’s work, in particular, celebrates their country of origin. Kim Kyungil’s artwork “Teageuk-Korean Flag” comes with a heartfelt statement that reads: “Among the images representing Korea, the first thing that comes to mind is the Teageukgi. I decided to take it apart and combine the small pieces together. While I was working, it reminded me of the love I have for my country, so it was very meaningful work for me.
The practice of quilting seems to bring solace and refuge to these talented artists, and these works speak to their cultural and generational pride and resilience.
The Quilt Road: Contemporary Korean Quilts is a group exhibition curated by Misik Kim and Patti King. It is currently on view through June 26, 2022 at the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum. 703 South Second St. in La Connor, WA. 360-466-4288 or try qfamuseum.org.