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Artists at Baylor's Martin Museum find meaning in landscapes, quilts

Artists at Baylor's Martin Museum find meaning in landscapes, quilts

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Baylor University’s Martin Museum of Art opens two exhibits this week that take large to small looks at subjects inherently large.

“Art of the Landscape,” drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, shows a variety in artists’ approach to capturing what are often wide perspective views of the natural environment.

Quilts and layers of meaning pulled from them provide the source inspiration for North Carolina fabric artist Rachel Meginnes in the museum’s Visiting Artist show “Repeating History” in an adjoining gallery.

Paintings dominate the landscape exhibit, but its 23 works also include pieces in other media, such as cross-stitch sewing (Baylor senior lecturer Leah Force’s 6-inch by 8-inch “On the Way to a Dream”), reductionist woodprinting (Gordon Mortensen’s “Autumn Marsh”) and abstract collage (Romare Bearden’s “Tidings”).

The exhibit also includes pieces from notable artists such as French painter Edouard-León Cortès, H. Claude Pissarro (grandson of impressionist painter Camille Pissarro) and Texas landscapist Porfirio Salinas.

Museum director Allison Chew said the show was assembled to provide a broad overview of landscape art accessible to a general audience, arranged not as a chronological progression but in a way where pieces “talk to each other” through comparison and contrast.

The exhibit does point out techniques that artists have used to translate a three-dimensional object like a landscape into two-dimensional media: shading, object size, arrangement and perspective.

In Meginnes’ works, old quilts found in thrift stores and discard piles provide the raw materials for larger messages of environmental conservation and social justice, said gallery attendant Elise Crowder.

In works like her 7-foot by 6-foot “Refuge,” the artist took apart, then reassembled an original quilt. She stabilized the worn fabric and stiffened its surface with gesso before pressing an image of the quilt on the reworked fabric, Crowder explained. In her social justice works “WHITEout” and “Reconstruction,” Meginnes worked with quilts’ internal batting, whose surfaces carry echoes of their past lives.

For “Meander,” the artist tore a worn quilt into thin strips that she then rewove on a loom.

While some of her pieces are large-scale, others are slightly more than a square foot, with quilt fabric providing a base for stitch work.

The two shows are the latest exhibits for the Martin Museum since it reopened to the public in late summer under COVID-19 protocols. Those protocols — capacity limitations, social distancing, mask requirements and the like — are still in effect, said Chew.

Capacity limits are up to 50%, which translates to about 30 visitors to the museum at the same time. While the museum saw a drop in its attendance last year, Crowder noted a steady stream of visitors in addition to Baylor students and faculty, many of whom were in town for Magnolia Market at the Silos.

The museum’s busiest day last fall was Nov. 24 when 27 people came to view the BFA Senior Exhibition, Chew said.

Last year the museum put together online tours of its in-person exhibitions for those unable to attend and will continue that practice this spring, Chew said.

Online tours of the museum’s current shows should be up sometime in February, as the museum secures artists’ permissions to show their works online, she said.

The Martin also is planning an interactive event, possibly online, with artist Meginnes later this spring.

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