'Blanket" shows the instantly recognizable silhouette of Michael Jackson in mid-dance, backed with luxuriously textured gold rectangles in various sizes. At the Business of Art Center's Hagnauer Gallery, it hangs across from "Double Elvis," a nod to Andy Warhol's technique of repeating images.
The subject matter doesn't seem all that unusual for a 30-year old man out of Los Angeles. But because that subject matter is presented on quilts — as in, the medium oft-associated with baby gifts and Sunbonnet Sue — Luke Haynes still gets a lot of questions.
"I have to tell most people twice," he says, "and then show some pictures before they put their eyebrows down."
Haynes, who was born in Durango, studied fine arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where he grew up. In 2002, he had a break from school and started quilting, drawing on sewing classes he took as a young teenager.
He's been doing it ever since. And as he's developed his art, he's drawn upon influences from his adult life, including three years of working as an architect.
"It is similar to architecture because it's a functional aesthetic constructed of layers of materials," says Haynes, who's sometimes called a "textile architect." It's fitting then, that his influences include the Gee's Bend quilts of Alabama, portraits by Chuck Close and Kehinde Wiley, and the architecture of Tadao Ando.
But quilting lets Haynes play with textures and colors more than architecture ever could, and his joy about that can be seen in LUKE Haynes: Too Legit to Quilt, now on display at the Business of Art Center. The title plays on MC Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit."
"Changing the word to 'quilt' alludes to the ideas that it is pop art and that I am rooted in an urban and art sensibility, rather than just a craft-based mode," he says.
BAC curator Patrick Bohnen says that's obvious when you look at Haynes' pieces on Jacko and Elvis. "These two works create dialogue when placed opposite that brings to mind questions about appropriation of images and references to art history," he says. "These elements speak to Luke's appropriation of what is typically seen as a feminine craft to create his art and the historical reference relates to his use of traditional patterns."
Visitors will see that Haynes' techniques include traditional piecing and raw-edge appliqué, usually sewn on a machine; he confesses that outpaces his hand-sewing talents.
Both Haynes and Bohnen hope the exhibit will show visitors and artists that quilting provides fertile ground for imaginative, thought-provoking art that goes far beyond utilitarian "domestic items." And that, yes, real men can be quilters.