The Source for Contemporary Art Quilts, Exhibitions & Appraisals

Françoise Barnes is a Parisian-born painter, printmaker, and mixed media artist who made a number of remarkable pieced quilts in the early years of what became the Art Quilt movement. She first encountered quilts in 1975, while living near the Amish in Ohio. While her first quilts were traditional she soon began pushing the edges of the medium creating her own contemporary designs. Along with Nancy Crow and Virginia Randles, she helped found Quilt National, the first showcase for non-traditional quilts, and her decidedly modern piecework was a prominent part of Quilt National's early exhibitions. Barnes recalled, "We were a tiny group of quiltmakers, and we could see the sky was the limit. This was a totally new art medium that could be pushed and manipulated. We wanted to be accepted as serious artists." She is no longer making quilts, but her work has an important place in the history of the twentieth-century quilt making and the move toward quilts intended to be seen as art pieces.

As its title suggests, this clever compassion was influenced by African masks, although Barnes cautioned, "I don't make my quilts to represent masks or bugs or other objects. I make them simply for people to enjoy—to look at the interplay of forms, the movement, and the colors." The combination combination of curved seam and strait edged pieces is particularly innovative and typical of Barnes's approach.

Author and curator Penny McMorris has long advised quiltmakers to "stop looking at quilts" for design ideas. In pieces like this, Françoise Barnes was doing exactly that, decades ago.

Kete/Kuba helmet mask
A Kete helmet mask from Zaire


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Zaire Songe Mask by Francoise Barnes

Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

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Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

Bottom left and right: Toward Barred Island (detail) by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade