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Review: Quilts at COCA aren't for keeping warm

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 2, 2013 - Like the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Center for Creative Arts, offers a dedicated space to the visual arts that is well worth visiting, even without attending a dance, theatrical or musical production. Edna Patterson-Petty’s quilt exhibit, Generating the Future, in the Millstone Gallery at COCA, hangs for another two weeks.

These are not quilts as traditionally conceived, made with repeating patterns to cover a bed. The single panel multimedia art works are more akin to a work on canvas. They are meant for display, not for practical use.

The similarity to painted works is cleverly commented upon by the parenthetical title of I Got the Blues (in a Jackson Pollack way) . The piece does look very much like a paint-splattered canvas. This only makes apparent, however, the sharp difference between the two media as Patterson-Petty’s splatter drops are meticulously sewn with precise stitches that took great planning.

Many of the quilted panels make a clear statement. They celebrate African-American history and herald jazz and blues musicians. Women and friendship make a strong third theme. Several works at COCA show variations of a motif in which a central female figure is rolled into herself and surrounded by elements of support that cover her like a warm blanket.

Patterson-Petty’s multimedia quilts have attracted national attention. In 2009, her Road to Redemption was shown in the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.’s “Quilts for Obama” exhibit, celebrating the inauguration of the then-new President Obama.

Patterson-Petty is a life-long resident of East St. Louis. She studied at SIU Edwardsville, earning graduate degrees in Fine Art and Art Therapy. The 18 panels at COCA tell not just her life story, but a valuable story of life in our region.

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