About the Artist
A fiber artist who improvises within the African American quilt tradition, Carolyn Beard Whitlow’s vibrant quilt art has been displayed in homes as far North as Maine, in Boston, Princeton, and New York City; as far West as California and Hawaii; in Arlington and Falls Church, VA; at Echo Gallery in Washington DC’s Union Station; at Soul Mountain, the writing Retreat at the University of Connecticut; at the Delta Fine Arts Center in Winston-Salem, NC; and at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, where she is Dana Professor of English. She has been an exhibitor and vendor of her quilts at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival in Reston, VA, at Art in the Park in Asheville, NC, at Sugarloaf Chantilly, VA and Sugarloaf Timonium,MD and at the Washington Craft Show in the Convention Center in Washington, DC. These quilts are not traditional patchwork. In her fiber art, as well as with words, she is a poet.
Named a Cave Canem Fellow in 2000, her second poetry collection, Vanished, won the 13th Annual Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award and was published in Detroit by Lotus Press in 2006. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Brown University in 1984, where she won the Rose Low Rome Memorial Prize in Poetry and was named Phi Beta Kappa Poet of the Alpha of Rhode Island. Finalist for both the 2006 Ohio State University Poetry Prize and the 1991 Barnard New Women Poets Prize, she won the 2013 Sonia Sanchez/Amiri Baraka Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and she is co-editor of the anthology OBSESSION: SESTINAS IN THE 21ST CENTURY, forthcoming from the University Press of New England in 2014. Her first collection of poems is entitled Wild Meat. Her latest collection, WHEN THE WIND STILLS, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.
“My original design quilts and framed quilt art are improvised within the African American quilt tradition. I incorporate top quality varietals: hand painted fabrics, hand dyes, screen prints, batiks, calicoes, solids—mostly 100% cotton—plus brocades, sateens and sparklers. Depending on the size of the work, I individually select and incorporate between thirty and two hundred (30-200) different fabrics collected from around the U.S.A. and imported from the Caribbean and Africa—particularly Ghana. I hand cut the fabrics randomly into increasingly small pieces, some as tiny as a pinky fingernail, and sew them together by machine as inspired, not by pattern, and then border them with complementary fabrics. The quilt art pieces are then blocked and acid-free matted by a professional framer; the frames are chosen by me and each finished piece is named and signed by the artist. For the quilts that range from lap size to queen-sized, I hand quilt the top to the batting and the back fabric selected specifically for each quilt. [The backs of the quilts often make them aesthetically reversible.] Each quilt, or professionally framed piece of quilt art, is individually fashioned, no two exactly alike even in the same color pallette. Each is a one-of-a-kind creation that vary by a) the choices of textures and patterns in fabrics employed, b) the placement of the fabrics in juxtaposition, c) the color combinations and shadings, and d) the style and colors of the border fabrics.”