Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women

Lia Cook

Lia Cook's "crazy quilts" of the 1980s demonstrate her provocative approach to weaving. First, the artist copied scaled-up details of fancy fabrics inspired by Victorian-era “crazy quilts”—a nineteenth-century style that stitched together assorted patterns and textures into elaborate, asymmetrical blankets. She painted individual strips of abaca paper and wove them together with dyed rayon. Next, she pressed the vibrant weavings, cut them into idiosyncratic shapes (exemplified in the samples here), and collaged the new pieces together into an intensely layered textile. Cook explained, "I like to see the weaving as the central medium which ties things together. And I feel like there's a lot of room for experimentation and play within that structure." As Cook slyly made textiles the primary process and subject, she flattened the distinction between contemporary painting and historical women's work.