Syracuse Artist Ellen M. Blalock Exhibits Story Quilts At ArtRage Gallery

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Syracuse artist Ellen M. Blalock exhibits story quilts at ArtRage Gallery

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Stitching Stories: Thread, Needle, Narrative. The Quilts of Ellen M. Blalock
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By ArtRage Gallery

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Contributing writer

Ellen Blalock's current exhibition at the ArtRage Gallery, "Stitching Stories: Thread, Needle, Narrative. The Quilts of Ellen M. Blalock", on view until Jan. 12, 2019, includes 20 years of the artist's work from four major series. Ellen connects with the rich history of fiber arts found throughout the African Diaspora and her work is part of the African American quilting tradition of story quilts.

Blalock began quilting in 1998 as a way to share her family's history after having just completed a thorough oral history project. During her interviews with family, Blalock asked her Aunt Garnette if there had even been quilt makers in the family. To Blalock's surprise she learned that her family had indeed had many quilt makers but her family's quilts had all been stolen. Blalock now views the quilts she creates as a way to reclaim the quilts that had been taken from her family. Several pieces from her first series, entitled "A Family Album: The Quilt Project" are included in the exhibition at ArtRage. Centered on one wall is a larger-than-life quilt of Mary Rosebud Ellis, Blalock's great-great grandmother. The face of Mary is created from a reproduction of her photograph, printed on fabric. The original photo is the oldest photo of a family member Blalock found throughout her research. On Mary's skirt a massive tree is quilted, giving the impression that Mary is rooted to the earth with the strength of an ancient, yet powerful tree. Flanking Mary are smaller quilts which each contain a photograph of other family members.

Also included in the exhibition are two quilts from the Goddess Series, one depicting Medusa, reimagined as M'dusa, an African goddess and the other of Oshun, the African goddess of love.

Blalock also uses to quilts to address challenging social issues such as racism, incarceration, violence, abuse, and police brutality. "Most Wanted", one of three quilts that make up the series "CAGE", is hung at the gallery's entrance. The quilt depicts a shirtless Black man, with his hands thrust forward as though he is about to be handcuffed or shackled. The series was first exhibited in 2012 at the Everson Museum as part of the Everson Biennial. This work, designed to be viewed from all directions, addresses homicide and incarceration in the Syracuse African American community. Blalock says, "CAGE is a memorial for victims: the community, the families, the murdered, and the incarcerated, to remember, to search for truth and to forgive."

Blalock is currently in the process of creating a new series of work entitled "Not Crazy". The work addresses trauma and mental health in the African American community. The first three quilts of the series are on exhibit at ArtRage. One of the pieces, "Murder" addresses the killing of unarmed African American men at the hands of police. In the quilt's statement Blalock writes, "NAACP organized against lynchings. Black Lives Matter also organizes against lynchings."

Together the exhibition shows the progression of Blalock as a quilter and artist. More than a quilter, a photographer or a videographer (two other art forms for which she is also known) Blalock, a former staff photographer and videographer with Advance Media New York, identifies as a Narrative Artist. She is always in search of the best medium to tell her story. Quilt making makes her stories personal and intimate. As Blalock writes in her artist statement, "Quilts intrinsically come with the language of protection, warmth, oral history, community and tradition."

The exhibition runs until Jan. 12, 2019 and is free and open to the public at ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave.; Wednesday through Friday 2 to 7 p.m, and Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. Note: ArtRage will be closed Dec. 23, 2018 through Jan. 1, 2019.

Source : https://www.syracuse.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/12/ellen_blalock_quilts_artrage_gallery.html

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Syracuse artist Ellen M. Blalock exhibits story quilts at ArtRage Gallery
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