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Maxine Farkas, Wonder Woman of Art Quilting posted: 7/25/2005
by Bonnie Ouellette Printable Page
Category: Art Method: All Series: On the Road
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Turtle Garden: Linen, Cotton, thread

Wonder Woman you ask? Well, after reading this article about all that Maxine does you will “wonder” how it is possible for one gal to have accomplished so much in the “Art Quilt World” in such a short time.

Maxine (like many of us) was taught to sew by her Grandmother, a seamstress, on her treadle machine that sat on her back porch in Chicago. After laboring on a dress, Maxine would find that her Grandmother had performed miracles of transformation in the “hemming” of the garment. It was many years before she touched a sewing machine after loosing her Grandmother.

The quilting bug hit in 1984 when, strapped for cash, Maxine purchased a tied log cabin quilt for her brother’s wedding gift. Because she thought the tied quilt looked like it needed something, Maxine set about to hand quilt with sewing thread and her only needle. She was hooked immediately and the snowball effect began in earnest. During the next few years she hand quilted everything in sight, although she had as yet to make a top herself and used materials that would be considered inappropriate today.

Sixteen: Silk, Cotton, Rust, feathers, and found objects
A yard sale came to her rescue when she purchased a Kenmore machine for $10 and the piecing began. Her very first class was with Ruth McDowell (an overly ambitious first class), but it was years before Maxine applied Ruth’s lesson in her own quilting. After getting involved in local Boston guilds, she had the thrill of seeing one of her pieces hanging in a guild show.

Everything was rosy until Maxine received a call from her Aunt Bernice who had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was in need of a caretaker. Needless to say, Maxine packed her bags and headed to Chicago. Bernice had always been a mentor and friend and now the tables were turned with Maxine giving guidance and support. While sitting in the park one day, Bernice and Maxine challenged each other to make a quilt depicting the beautiful water fountain they were admiring. The planning stages brought them even closer together and the quilt was begun shortly before Bernice passed away. On the way back to Boston, a visit to Quilt National at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio proved to be a life changing experience. Maxine made the realization that she wanted to make quilts the rest of her life, but not ordinary quilts, quilts that were different, that told stories and quilts that caused people to think about things.

Shortly after returning to Boston, she joined a small email list called QuiltArt. This resource proved to be more valuable than any other learning experience. In 1998, Maxine and Sandra Sider founded Quilt 21, a juried, catalogued exhibition that focused on quilts that didn’t quite fit into traditional categories or shows. The first opening was during the 2000 Lowell Quilt Festival with Sandra managing the show tour for two years and Maxine became a curator and editor of the American Art Quilt: Quilt 21 catalogs. When Quilt 21/2002 rolled around Sandra had withdrawn and Maxine organized the entire exhibit and tour. Maxine put together Small Works for Small Spaces at the Ayer Lofts Gallery in Lowell during the 2004 Lowell Quilt Festival.

Tyvek City: Linen, paint, Tyvek, beads
Making art quilts, teaching at guilds and at Friends Fabric Art in Lowell, MA is a pretty demanding schedule. A year of wonderful articles called Art Quilting 101 in Quilting Arts magazine was concluded in the Spring of 2004. 2004 was an extremely busy summer with Quilt Festival coming to Lowell and curating the Friends Art Quilt Walk with quilts hanging in the windows of 16 downtown merchants, besides curating an exhibit for the World Quilt and Textile Show in Manchester, NH, August, 2004. Recently Maxine was appointed by the Lowell City Manager to the Lowell Cultural Council (in Massachusetts, local cultural councils distribute state funding for the arts) and this year Maxine was elected chair of the council. No need to explain any further, why I chose to call her “Wonder Woman”.

Lowell Quilt Festival and other venues in Lowell, MA:

Images 2006
August 3 – 6, 2006
Tsongas Arena
1 Arcand Drive, Lowell, MA

Untitled: Rust, silk, feathers, cotton, beads, coral
Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Antique Show and Market
August 3 – 6, 2006
50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA

New England Quilt Museum
18 Shattuck Street, Lowell, MA

American Textile History Museum
“Art Quilts from the Collection of the Museum
Of Arts & Design”
491 Dutton Street, Lowell, MA

Brush Art Gallery
256 Market Street, Lowell, MA

Whistler House Museum of Art
243 Worthen Street, Lowell, MA

Ayer Lofts Art Gallery
172 Middle Street, Lowell, MA

QuiltArt email list and website

Gay’s Mom: silk, rust, citrasolv transfer, horsehair braid, watchparts, feathers, lapis, beads

Friends Fabric Art
Fabric Art Class

©2004 Bonnie Ouellette
“On The Road Reporter”

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