Quilts provide outlet for TV news editor

October 10, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - You won't find any of the traditional quilt designs such as the Lone Star or the Double Wedding Ring here.

These quilts have an attitude.

With his unique sewing styles, choice of colorful images and his courage to take on political issues, Shawn Quinlan's quilts deal with topics such as war and education and the hypocrisy Quinlan sees in them.

Quinlan said his creations are the way he deals with a long day at the office.

Work influences art

Quinlan edits television news at station WTAE in Pittsburgh, a job that gives him plenty of material to influence his art.


For example, after a television story about war protesters, a piece Quinlan calls "Who Would Jesus Bomb" began to take shape.

The quilt shows a large image of Jesus in the center with two planes at each side of him. Bombs are dropping out of the planes creating black plumes of smoke.

Quinlan talked about his art Sunday during a sewing demonstration and presentation at Shepherd University a day after the start of an exhibit of his work at the Frank Center.

During an interview later, Quinlan was a bit reluctant to go into the issues that inspire his quilt designs, but he said he is frustrated by the hypocrisy he observes in issues such as politics and religion.

Quinlan said he gets angry when he hears authorities talking about the need to take care of children while kids die at a high rate in Africa.

Evangelists who live in multi-million dollar homes bother him, too.

Quinlan talks about that as he explains his quilt, "Hiding Behind Religion."

Jesus appears in that quilt, too, but his eyes are covered and images of currency are scattered about in the picture.

Quinlan criticizes the federal government's "No Child Left Behind" educational programs, and his belief that there is scarce funding to implement them.

He talks about the issue as he explains a quilt that shows images of infants inside television screens.

He told about 15 people gathered at the Frank Center that he doesn't care what people think of his work.

"It's my therapy from a long day of TV news," said Quinlan.

Images jump from the quilts

His images seem to jump from the quilts.

He uses a sewing machine like a drawing pen, guiding the machine in a swirling motion to create images like clouds.

Pieces of material in Quinlan's creations can come from just about anywhere. For example, the bombing planes in the "Who Would Jesus Bomb" quilt came from a pair of boxer shorts Quinlan found in a thrift store.

Quilan's works are attracting attention in art circles and his quilts have been shown in cities like New York and Pittsburgh.

Impressed by the approach

Those gathered for Quinlan's presentation were impressed by his unique approach.

Charles Town, W.Va., resident Roxane Barton is a quilt maker who has focused on the traditional methods of the craft.

Barton said she now is ready to follow Quinlan's lead, and she is eager to create works that help her express her feelings about areas such as women's issues.

"The creativeness is just endless now," Barton said.

Quinlan's exhibit will continue at the Frank Center for the Creative Arts Gallery until Nov. 4.

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