Joan Schulze is an internationally acclaimed mixed media quilt, collage, and fiber artist and poet who has been exploring her own distinctive approach to the quilt medium for nearly forty years. She was one of only sixteen artists chosen to be part of the genre-defining 1986 exhibition "The Art Quilt," curated by Michael Kile and Penny McMorris, and her work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, the National Museum of American Art's Renwick Gallery/ Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the Oakland Museum, Visa International, Kaiser Permanente, Adobe Systems, Inc., the John M. Walsh Collection of Contemporary Art Quilts, and many other important public and private collections in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
Joan’s work has been compared favorably with Robert Rauschenberg’s varied and prolific output, and she lists Agnes Martin, Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, Czeslaw Milosz, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Berger among the painters and poets that she admires most.
Joan made her first quilt in 1974. She has explored a variety of ways of altering and manipulating fabric over the years, including the use of dye, paint, Xerox transfer, photography and photocopy, direct and glue transfer, and digital imagery. While her interest in technology continues, her main theme is poetry: the poetry of strange, often surreal juxtapositions, elegant colors, eccentric surfaces and most of all, the element of surprise in theme and execution.
Joan is an inveterate traveler who has exhibited and taught in Australia, China, Japan, and many European countries as well as all over the Untied States. Her quilts, collages, and prints are in one sense a record of her journeys, a kind of visual journal of her travels and experiences. She says, “I love the idea of quilt. The layering, the fact that it can be reversible, that you can plug into this great and varied history of bed covering and with a little push you can enter a new world of walls, ceilings, or installations. It is the best of all worlds for me. I am enamored with surfaces and how they disintegrate over time. I layer and scratch away to reveal what is beneath the surface, much like the effect one sees on old frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and urban walls. These erasures and fragments are combined, manipulated and rearranged to form a new experience. Quilting is still important. It now functions as drawing with echoes of the tradition.”
“My camera is always with me,” she explains. “However, my favorite and most important camera is the black and white photocopy machine. Not being portable, it stays in the studio. For many years I used the copier to recompose and distort photographs, printing them onto cloth and paper for quilts and collages. In the mid 90s I began to use the photocopier to create line drawings by photocopying my stitched organza embroideries. This idea enlarged and invigorated my work. I made simple copies of the organza embroidery and printed the results onto silk. Later by folding and pleating the original, I found layered trompe l’oeil drawings. Enlarged, distorted and recombined copies created more complex mysterious drawings. Editing and working with the paper copies, I pieced them to build a larger drawing. The process goes back and forth from the originals to re-composed copies until I photocopy the drawings onto silk. The prints are stitched together. Layering the pieced drawing over batting and backing it is then ready to quilt. The quilting adds stitched lines that finish the photographed/photocopied line drawing.
"These quilts sit quietly on the wall. When you approach, you may get involved deciding which lines are real and which are printed. I see these drawings as lines of poetry. Each line supports the other. When all the stanzas are finished the drawing asserts itself."