Central Sierra Arts Council and Stage 3 Theatre invite the public to enjoy the abstract quilts of internationally-known fiber artist Leslie Carabas. Currently four of Carabas’ distinctive wall quilts are on view in Stage 3 Theatre’s Lobby Gallery. The visual art display is curated by Central Sierra Arts Council with assistance from the staff and supporters of Stage 3. “Recently Reb Silay, Stage 3′s CEO, requested that we help with the theatre’s art displays. We are very honored,” states Deanna Dechaine-Maurer, executive director of Tuolumne County’s arts council.
We learned that Stage 3 was presenting ‘Noises Off,’ so we wanted to find an artist whose work was unusual, even dissonant as is this play. Leslie’s work is not only stunning and edgy, but she breaks all the rules of traditional quilting! Carabas’ quilts are designed with asymmetry, repetitive patterns, strong lines, texture, distinctive use of color–all traits of abstract art. “During the past 30 years, I’ve experimented liberally using many quilting techniques, such as piecing, embroidery, appliqué,” Carabas explains. But she also employs techniques found in collage, painting, drawing and sculpting, all drawn from her training as a visual artist.
With a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Stanford University in 1966, Carabas later went on to earn her Masters in Fine Art from Cal-State, San Francisco, in 1993. But that MFA came after she had already established her reputation both nationally and internationally. Since 1978 she has been invited to exhibit her quilts at art centers and universities all over the United States. Her international exhibitions have included shows in Canada, Japan and Taiwan. In 1990 her quilts were a part of Boston University’s exhibition “Contemporary Quilts USA,” which toured twelve European nations. Long regarded as one of America’s most outstanding contemporary fiber artists, Carabas’ works have also been featured in more than ten fiber art books and magazines. In addition, she is in demand as a presenter, guest artist and lecturer at quilt shows all over the United States. Locally, she will participate in Sonora Art Trails Open Studio Tour on April 30th and May 1st when she and her husband, contemporary abstract painter Robert Carabas, open their home to visitors. Joining them will be artist Tracy Knopf, who created Tuolumne County Children’s Library’s mural of Sierra wildlife. Before the mural was dedicated, Tracy and Children’s Librarian Christine Greenberger, herself a quilter, arranged for two of Leslie’s quilts to be displayed in the Children’s Room. Sadly those two quilts came down in less than two months, much to the dismay of many quilt fans and Carabas.
Leslie started out making baby quilts, but she is first and foremost an artist. Her quilts have evolved into strong contemporary art with connections to deep early traditions. Her work has rich echoes of some of America’s most revered folk artists: The quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and the Amish quilters. Likewise, her design concept has the gesture of color, line and shape of Sweden’s modern Rya rugs, which became popular in the 1970′s.
Leslie’s art training and knowledge bring forth powerful echoes of the abstract color field painters in her quilts, as well. When you look at her pieces, it’s easy to see a line reaching back to painters such as Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Helen Frankenthaler.
In 1999 when the Carabases decided to leave the Bay Area and move to the Sierra Foothills, Leslie discovered that this new environment had a strong influence on her work. “In the Sierra Nevada Mountains my artistic vision and my personal search for ‘awe’ finally merged,” she says of living here. “Now that sense of awe is fed by being close to the overwhelming beauty and frightening power of the natural world.” She believes that her quilts now have a serenity, but are still on the edge. “Like when you’re looking thousands of feet below into a granite gorge or plunging into the microscopic center of an alpine flower.”
Moving to the mountains did not mean that Carabas was seeking a quiet life. In fact, she maintains a busy schedule of exhibitions, classes and “quilt camps.” Plus, she currently shows her work at the historic Phoenix Gallery in the Chelsea Art District, New York City.
Central Sierra Foothill quilters are very proud of Leslie’s presence in this region. In September 2007 she was honored as the featured quilt artist for the Sierra Quilt Guild’s annual Quilts and Thread Show. “Her work is simply amazing, true pieces of art! Unlike anything we had ever seen before–new design, new construction, new fabrics. Leslie’s vision as a fabric artist is just phenomenal!” extolls Maureen Kelley, past-president of the Sierra Quilt Guild and the 2011 featured quilt artist for their show, which will mark its 22nd year this September.
Central Sierra Arts Council is Tuolumne County’s public agency for the arts, and works to educate and promote the arts in this region. As for curating at Stage 3, what could be better? We get to work with one of our fine local theatres, while we also get to help deepen appreciation for the visual artists in our community.
We hope that all of you will mark your calendar for April 30th and May 1st for the Sonora Art Trails Open Studio Tour. Maps for the free open studio tour are now available at Tuolumne County Visitors’ Bureau, Sonora Joe’s Coffee Shoppe and at our new home….CSAC’s new HQ and The George Post Gallery, located at 193 S. Washington St. By the way, this month the Sonora Art Trails artists have an exhibition in our back gallery, Et Cetera. Join us for the artists’ reception on Saturday, April 9th from 5pm until 8pm. Unfortunately, Leslie won’t be able to attend. I think she’s off on tour with those gorgeous quilts!