Eleanor McCain is a practicing Internal Medicine Physician in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, who has been making art quilts since 1994. Although her career has been in science, she has always sought a creative outlet. She came from a family of artists—her grandmother was a quiltmaker, and her mother is a watercolorist and writer—and she has always been drawn to handmade objects. She told Southern Living magazine: "I tried macramé, needlepoint, embroidery, and furniture, and I realized that at some point, I would have to settle on a form. I thought traditional quilts were nice, but they felt repetitious to me. It took awhile for me to realize that I could develop my own style." Then, in the early 1980s, she saw an exhibition of contemporary quilts at the Connell Gallery in Atlanta, which included work by Nancy Crow, Pamela Studstill, Terrie Mangat, and Susan Shie, and says, "I have NEVER been rocked back on my heels by art like I was at that show. I realized that quilting could be a completely contemporary, expressive art form."
McCain's work is represented in the collection of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC, and numerous corporate and private collections. Mark Richard Leach,the founding Director of the Mint Museum and current Executive Director at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, has described one of McCain's quilts as "remarkable, even irresistible, for even as the artist has selected a very traditional quilting design, her improvisational approach to cropping, scale, coloration and repetition have resulted in a dramatic and visually compelling art work.”
While McCain's use of hand dyed fabrics, patchwork, and stitched lines are rooted in the traditions of the craft, the designs of her quilts embrace the contemporary. She explains, "Quilting is grounded in American history, family, community, and common experience. Art quilts are a living document of cultural history expressing artistic, emotional, and spiritual values, particularly those of women. I use quilts to transpose function and symbol, art and craft, and to express ideals about creativity and community .I'm attracted to the idea of participating in a classically female, previously demeaned form of art. I'm in awe of it. For me it references more of the history and the women who have done this for
years and years. It is their form."