Luke Haynes visited the LMQG at our habitual meeting place the Star Tavern, Belgravia, on 12th on the October 2014. He brought with him stories, perspectives, bales of ideas that would shame the even his “Goodwill” fabric hunting grounds, and of course quilts. As quilts. And quilts as quilts, as art.
Luke loved Purple. Purple was made for him by his mother and was perhaps the beginning other visual and creative interests. One theory has it that he has been remaking Purple all his life. If that is the case, he has done the most challenging of all creative things. He has allowed his creations to change his outlook, he has engaged in what they mean to others. In his words, he “has a conversation about it”.
Luke trained in art and architecture and at the same time, pursued what was at once a distraction and an alternative, photography. These threads came together in quilting.
At an early exhibition Luke found himself to be the subject of an unexpected celebration;
“I LOVE how you don’t care if it is straight!”
He does not bind by hand, he uses the visibility of the seams as part of the framing of the quilt. He does use acid free glue. He does not do that which he doesn’t want to do. All very affirmative for a room full of modern quilters!
Other than steering clear of knitted fabric (there is a limit to the contemporary edge that even Luke can construct out of some material), Luke will try fabrics together that seem unlikely neighbours, shirting with synthetic fur, cotton labels with wool suiting, vinyl with denim….He sorts his Goodwill, by the kilo, purchases by colour. He doesn’t dye fabrics, he reconstructs them as they are. His editing is based on whether he would like to wear it. If yes, it is spared the rotary cutter. Until the next wardrobe cull. If not, curtains. And they might well be.
Luke’s work is a synthesis of different perspectives. Log cabins are suggested, and the lines deconstructed, the blocks don’t match the frames, they echo them. They stimulate inquiry, they disturb familiarity.
Photographs are photoshopped and reimaged in fabric, into portrait quilts. The fellowship of quilting’s heritage realised anew. The reverse of the quilt holds the negative image that the electronic photographs never had, picked out in a contrasting bobbin colour. Joe Cunningham’s signature “drawing with bias tape” has the same stature and space on the quilt as Joe’s image. The work of the long arm quilting machine becomes the earliest of craft methods, ink sketched onto a background.
In another portrait quilt, Whistler’s Mother becomes “a big bearded goofy guy” and as with Mrs Whistler, the physical map of a journey through life, patent on the face, present in the textures of the portrait quilt. Ambiguity brings questions. Is he care worn and tired a contemporary Whistler whose digital bubble has burst? Has he simply had a heavy meal and a night of video games?
Are we looking at the weight of the world or the passing effects of self indulgence? We are stimulated to ask the question, provoked to debate the response. Isn’t that what art does? And speaking history, across generations, in fabric, the maker evident in their sewing, isn’t that what quilting has done?
The accessibility of Luke’s portrait quilts makes them the “pictures on a blanket” of the cautious Seattle art gallery visitors he told us about. They are objects for use, they are personal, they are public. They are quilts, as quilts. They are quilts; as quilts, as art.