A touch of art

Fabric artist Williamson
to exhibit at History Center

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (November 2004) – Gayle Williamson has always felt the need to create visual images. Her artistic endeavors have brought her national recognition in the field of fabric art.

Gayle Williamson
Gayle Williamson

Born in Pewee Valley, Ky., Williamson grew up watching her aunts and grandmother quilt and her mother crochet. “My first sewing machine was a toy that I constructed doll clothes on. I joined 4-H and made my first apron. I have been sewing ever since,” she said.
Originally trained as a pianist and singer, Williamson turned to fabric art in 1988 after learning she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. She had first pursued sculpture and photography but had to seek a less physically demanding art form. She then discovered fabric art, having already picked up the basics from family members.
Williamson’s technique consists of embroidering free style, using a variety of threads: silk, rayon, overdye, watercolor, perle cotton and metallic.
“I explore the themes of birth, death and resurrection in relationship to mankind,” said Williamson of her artwork. Her work often exudes a spiritual nature, symbolizing her faith and devotion to God during difficult life experiences.
An exhibit of William’s work consisting of 21 pieces produced over the last 25 years will be on display from Nov. 10 to Jan. 1 at the Oldham County History Center in La Grange. Executive director Nancy Theiss has been acquainted with Williamson for many years and said, “Her pieces are brilliant in texture, form and color-very visually stimulating but also restful.”

Williamson Art
Gayle Williamson Art

This exhibit is funded by a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. “It seemed natural that we feature her work since textiles are an important part of our collections and are used for interpretation of history, culture and lifestyles,” Theiss said.
As a result of working with homeless women at the Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville, Williamson applied for and received a grant from the Kentucky Women’s Foundation. The women produced clothes, pillows, bags and stockings that were exhibited in a show alongside Williamson’s work. It was a project in which “everyone gained trust, self-respect, friendship and a sense of teamwork and accomplishment,” she said.
She said this experience was educational and the pieces produced gave the women a sense of hope for the future. Williamson spent five years volunteering at Wayside and developed an art and craft program “that developed into a cottage industry as 2,500 tote bags were ordered by the Presbyterian Women’s Convention 2000,” she said. The Sewing Tree project is self-sustaining and pays a stipend to the women involved in it.
Williamson recently exhibited in “Through the Needle’s Eye,” the 17th National Embroidery Guild of America 2002-2004. Her artwork has appeared in numerous art books and magazines. She is a recipient of the 2004 Al Smith Fellowship, and her work will appear in the Al Smith Fellowship Exhibit at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville from Nov. 27 to Jan. 30, 2005.

Williamson Art
Gayle Williamson Art

As part of the History Center’s dinner-lecture series, Williamson will present a lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 10. at the Irish Rover Too in La Grange. She will briefly speak about “my own journey as it relates to textiles,” she said. An artist’s reception and viewing will be held afterward at the History Center from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Williamson pursued a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in art. She conducts many workshops for children and adults.
Williamson will conduct a Children’s Textile Workshop at the History Center on Nov. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Using the center’s own quilt collection, Williamson will explain quilts and history, and how this relates to children. Each participant will construct a fabric doll. Cost is $5 for members and $7 for non-members.
A second workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 4 on Quilting and Embroidery Techniques. Williamson will provide unique suggestions for recycling family heirlooms and quilts to turn them into attractive displays. Cost is $10 for members and $13 for non-members. The fee includes a box lunch.
Quilts were traditionally made by women for useful purposes and are now being seen as a true art form. “Women’s work is often dismissed, yet represents such an important part of our history,” said Williamson. The value of quilts, altar linens and similar items has long been taken for granted.

• For more information, contact the History Center at (502) 222-0826. Tickets are $15 for members for the dinner-lecture and $18 for non-members.

Back to November 2004 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta