touch of art
to exhibit at History Center
Helen E. McKinney
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.
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
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.
Williamsons technique consists of embroidering free style, using
a variety of threads: silk, rayon, overdye, watercolor, perle cotton
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 Williams 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.
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 Womens Foundation. The women produced clothes, pillows,
bags and stockings that were exhibited in a show alongside Williamsons
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 Womens Convention 2000, she said. The Sewing
Tree project is self-sustaining and pays a stipend to the women involved
Williamson recently exhibited in Through the Needles 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 Actors Theatre of Louisville from
Nov. 27 to Jan. 30, 2005.
As part of the History Centers 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 artists reception
and viewing will be held afterward at the History Center from 7:30 p.m.
to 9 p.m.
Williamson pursued a bachelors degree in music and a masters
degree in art. She conducts many workshops for children and adults.
Williamson will conduct a Childrens Textile Workshop at the History
Center on Nov. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Using the centers 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. Womens 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.
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