The online Column “Piazza Navona” is very happy to host a real art meeting with the Textile Artist Agusta Agustsson who tells about the world and her deep feeling using fabrics as painting canvas creating squils. In this way she creates squils whick evoke our reality.
Agusta Agustsson is a Textile Artist from Massachusetts who worked as an art teacher for 22 years.
From 1974 she uses fabric as a canvas to paint. Her colours are realized by patches and threads. In this way she realizes real works of art through which she narrates our surrounding world. So her squils become a sort of mirror and reflection of our society in which climate change and pollution are at the first place.
Agusta Agustsson has the gift of translating into images her feelings, her thoughts talking to her public with extreme simplicity. This Artist creates a new way to understand the Art shaped through new textures and new materials. For this reason Agustsson’s works received national and international recognition. For this reason it is important to underline that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston acquired one of her quilts in 2017.
But let Agusta Agustsson tells us about her artistic career and about her conception of art.
Enjoy the interview!
- When did you discover your love for art?
I have always been interested in art. As a child I was greedy for paper to draw and paint on. After high school I briefly attended secretarial school which only confirmed that I needed to attend art school.
- When did you discover textiles were your medium?
My mother taught me to sew. She sewed clothes for my sisters and me. She taught me to create and adapt patterns. I designed and sewed doll clothes to sell to toy stores when I was 12. Painting was a separate thing. In art school I was a painting major. During my senior year I became part of a sewing group. I saw how textiles were an art form especially suited to address issues of gender.
My work from this time was more three dimensional. A transitional piece was a landscape of memories. As I explored textiles my subject matter dealt mostly with gender issues. During this time there was a perception that textile art was women’s work and not fine art. Fine Art galleries told me that my work belonged in craft galleries. Craft galleries said my work wasn’t appropriate. I finally gave up and began doing landscapes and cityscapes in pastel.
Five years ago when my father died I felt the need to work in a tactile medium. The next year my mother fell ill with cancer. I sewed quilt squares while waiting with her in all the doctor’s offices. At this point my work was more traditional. I was frustrated because all the creative work happened before the piece was sewn together. Piecing was enjoyable, but quilting was sheer drudgery. I needed to turn that around. I wanted a way to use textiles more spontaneously, to experience surprise and wonder throughout a project.
- How difficult is it to create your textile works?
When one is doing something that sparks joy difficulties are just problems to be solved. It takes time and patience, but is all part of the exploration.
- What inspires your work?
Right now climate change and the state of our planet are always on my mind. I hope to lure the viewer in with seductive images and then lead them to my climate message. One of my series is called “The Blue Planet Series”. My last series was “Plastic Seas” with dealt with the plastic mess we have created in our oceans. It would be easy to despair and give up. I feel art offers hope that we can somehow save ourselves and our planet.
- How do you choose the textiles you work with?
I work with commercially printed cotton fabric that I print over using a gelatin plate.
- Who has inspired your work?
Right now, I am really interested in Australian landscape painters and landscape painters from the UK. I particularly like Idris Murphy and Simon Pooley. Textile artists that sent me in a good direction are Dorothy Caldwell, Cas Holmes, Tansy Hargan, Sue Benner, Pat Pauly, Alice Kettle, Paula Kovarik and Matthew Harris.
- How important is color in your work?
Color and contrast are intrinsic to quilting. It is just like painting in that way, One has to be aware of what colors leap forward and what colors fall behind. There has to be a tension between the colors to create visual excitement.
- Can you describe your process?
Gelatin printing on fabric is part of my process. It is how I create the fabrics I will use in my quilts. I print on fabrics I have in my stash, but also on fat quarters when there is a big sale. The commercial patterns create an interesting frission with the printed images. Before I begin printing I chose a pile of fabrics giving them a cursory ironing to make them easier to print. I gather a collection of objects that I want to use to create impressions on my gelatin plate. Some of the objects come from my walks in the woods. Others are random found objects such a bubble wrap and fruit netting.
The process is pretty intuitive. I begin by putting acrylic paint on my plate. I spread the paint with a brayer, not necessarily covering the whole plate. A random edge can soften an image. Then I place the object I am going to print on the plate. I place the fabric over the plate. Next, I use a baren to press the fabric to the plate. Sometimes I print the object as a negative image. Other times I lift away the object and print the ghost. I continue printing and build up several layers. I try to make the fabric interesting, but not look like a completed print.
After the fabrics have dried, I look at them, rearrange them, cut them up and rearrange them again. Then I begin pinning pieces to my design wall. When I am mostly satisfied I begin sewing, still leaving myself the option to change things.
- Where have you exhibited?
Here there are all my exhibition from today until my beginnings in 1974:
“Threads”, Beebe Estate, Melrose, MA
“Plastic Sea, Changing Earth”, Belmont Gallery at Belmont Public Library, Belmont, MA
“The Eye Sees, The Mind Wonders”, Milton Art Center, Milton MA
“Fiber Fusions”, Whistler House Museum of Art, Lowell, MA
“The Waste Land on Earth?”, Harvard Ed’s Portal Crossing Gallery, Allston, MA
“Good Fibrations”, Marblehead Art Association (May/Jun)
“Outside the Ordinary”, Essex Art Center, Lawrence, MA (Mar/Apr)
“Fissures”, Emerald Art Center, Springfield, OR (March)
“Stepping Inside the Outside”, Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI
“Stitched Connections” Beebe Estate, Melrose, MA
“Explorations: Journey in Creativity, The Quilt Artist’s Studio”, New England Quilt Museum, Lowell, MA
“Stepping Inside the Outside”, Highfield Hall,Falmouth, MA
“Biennial Members Exhibition, Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA
“Threads”, Beebe Estate, Melrose, MA
“Rebellion and Grace”, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
“The Meaning of Landscape”, Concord Art Association, Concord, MA
“Green Quilts”, Louisville, KT, “Alumni/ae”, Arnheim Gallery , Mass. College of Art
“The Graphic Workshop, 20 Years of Posters”
Huntington Gallery, Mass. College of Art
“Women Illustrators of New England”, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
“The Art of the Poster”, Currier Gallery, Manchester, NH
1984 “Letters to Iceland”, one person show, Reykjavik, Iceland
IX and X Polish Poster Biennial
Finnish Poster Biennial
“Fort Point Artists”, Federal Reserve Bank, Boston
“Contemporary Quilting, A Renaissance”, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, touring exhibit
“The Great American Quilt”, Stuhr Museum, Great Lakes, Nebraska
“The DeCordova, 30 Years”, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln , MA
“Artist/Designer”, Lamont Gallery, Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
“Throbbing Needles”, Boston City Hall
“Best Posters of 1973-1978, American Institute of Graphic Arts, NY
“Artist’s Store”, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
“Six Viewpoints”, Longwood Gallery, Mass. College of Art, Boston
“Wet Paint”, Overland Gallery, Mass. College of Art, Boston
- Do you have a favorite work?
Whichever piece I am working on at the moment is my favorite piece.
- You also paint? What is your usual subject? Why? What media do you use?
I haven’t painted for a while. I began as an oil painter but switched to acrylics because the oils were just so lush and I wanted to concentrate more on the formal aspects of color. I studied Chinese brush painting for a number of years which led me to watercolors. Mostly, I painted landscapes because I am inspired by nature.
- What will be your next textile work?
Right now, I am working on quilts inspired by my native Iceland. Climate change is already affecting Iceland. Some harbors have risen and are no longer deep enough. The cod are migrating to colder waters. And of course, the glaciers are melting.
- What are your future plans?
I try to formulate yearly goals. Last year my goal was to create 24 quilts. This year my goal is to explore the mark making possibilities of my Bernina. The issue of climate change will continue to be part of the conversation in my work.
Before greeting you I wish to thank you once again Agusta Agustsson for her cooperation and kindness. Additionally, for those who wishing to learn more this is the Web site of the Artist https://www.pinkgoosetextiles.com/