Juke Joints, Jazz & Blues

From now until Wednesday, July 3, Western Carolina University’s Chelsea Gallery hosts a collection of quilts that pay tribute to such African-American musical traditions as jazz and blues and to great African-American personalities in those traditions, such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington. These quilts are the work of Carolyn Mazloomi and are on loan to the Chelsea Gallery from the Connel Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Mazloomi’s quilts are multi-dimensional works of art; at first glance one is captivated by colors, a brilliant lime green trimmed with purple, a firey red and orange framed in black lines on patterened cloth. The entire palate of several quilts is comprised of blues and purples and greens. Shape is the next feature observed. You must look twice to see the people that lie within the undulation of shape. Perspective is the next aspect of the picture to take you by surprise, as the people within the undulations lean back, then forward, raise an arm as if rejoicing, then lift a leg as though to kick off from the ground. Overwhelmed as you are likely to be at this point, the texture refuses to go unnotice. Eventually you distinguish a velvet or sequined dress from the cotton background and the silk of the roses from the mother of pearl buttons on the saxophone. Mazloomi’s artistry is held together by the stitching, as thread creates geometric patterns within borders and flowers against the backgrounds. Carolyn Mazloomi is the author of “Spirits of the Cloth: Contemporary African American Quilts” and in 1985 founded the Women of Color Quilter’s Network. Her quilts are exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute, Quilter’s Hall of Fame and the American Craft Council. Her work also resides with numerous private collectors. Ms. Mazloomi’s work is exhibited in the Chelsea Gallery in conjunction with the Cullowhee ArtsFest, Friday and Saturday, June 14-15. Viewing hours for the Gallery will coincide with festival hours.