Sometimes a museum setting and the content of an exhibit mesh perfectly. Such is the case with the glorious old El Paso County courthouse, now the Pioneers Museum, and its annual Quilts and Fine Woodworking Exhibit.
This is the only juried woodworking show in the state and the work is uniformly fine. An inviting rocking chair made by M. Scott Burgess of Edwards, Colo., greets viewers at the show's entrance -- tall, with simple, elegant lines of polished cherry and walnut, a fabric seat and a tidy price tag of $4,200. Behind it hangs Pamela Humphries' "Hummingbird Fantasy" quilt, judged Best of Show and First Place Appliqu. The ethereal piece is composed of linked squares of appliqud hummingbirds on a cream-colored background, each bird with unique wing patterns, sipping from perfectly proportioned garden flowers.
The woodwork in the show ranges from the functional -- David Walter of Denver's Flamenco Guitar crafted of cypress, Spanish cedar and western red cedar -- to the purely decorative -- Paul Stafford of Littleton's "Nautilus Unzipped," a fanciful wood sculpture crafted from sycamore, a nautilus shell peeled open at the top by a long metal zipper, revealing another shell inside.
The woodworking Best of Show went to Eugene Watson of Pueblo West for his "Tri-Box" of birdseye maple, curly koa and rosewood, inlaid with pava shell. It's a gorgeous creation with four movable and interlinked triangular compartments.
Not everything is for sale, and some items come with a price tag that doesn't break the bank. James Trapp's walnut and cherry fly-fishing net with its graceful curved handle, for instance, can be yours for just $163.
Traditional patterns mingle with modern designs in the quilt show. A closer look at some of the pieces, like Harriet Smith's "Stars in Fred's Garden," reveals hand-dyed fabrics that add depth to the color and composition. Appliqud flowers surround central stars in each square of that quilt, each flower made of a swirling, batik fabric. (The enormous quilt was hand quilted by Judy Peck.)
Jeanne Reed of Colorado Springs has created a short history with her quilt, "Meeting of the East-West Railroad," hand quilted with trapunto work and ribbon embroidery. The scene is an Early American landscape with barnyards, forests, mountains, and familiar small-town fixtures, culminating in the meeting of two trains, nose to nose at the bottom of the quilt, in exquisite detail.
I loved Ann Carlson's "Ferns and foliage," sun prints on fabric, appliqud and swirling with lace and purple and red dyes. The judges loved Brenda Mayfield of Divide's mammoth and dramatic "Ghosts of Hayman" (Judges Choice Award), a tribute to the firefighters and the legendary fire of Summer 2002. Mayfield used photo transfer technique to document the flames, the forest and the human struggle to contain the fire. Four pine trees anchor the corners against a flaming, marbled, brilliant orange background.
At the center stand the appliqud black silhouettes of two firefighters, weighted down with equipment. It's a thoughtful memorial to an event that both ravaged and strengthened the artist's surrounding community.
The Rocky Mountain Gallery of Fine Woodworking, the Colorado Quilting Council and all the artists associated with both groups are to be commended for the quality of work in this show, and for staging it every fall in the perfect setting, amid the marble and oak of the Pioneers Museum.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
capsule 19th annual Quilts and Fine Woodworking Exhibit
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St.
Runs through Oct. 26