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Photo Quilts

I began my Photo-Quilt series in 1990 after living a year in New York near Central Park. I took daily walks with my camera in Central Park and throughout the city. Back in Berkeley I watched a friend construct a quilt, selecting fabrics from her “stash” for their color, hue and pattern texture. My hundreds of photos of New York and Central Park became my “stash” and I began to study the art of quilters and to collage my photos in traditional American quilt patterns. I have been working in the “quilter’s mode” ever since, showing my work in both quilt shows and art exhibitions.

Three Photo-Quilts emerged from the photos collected that year, one on spring in Central Park and two of the New York skyline from our condominium on East 64thNew York Windows was begun that year but not finished until 2007. Walking city streets, I often felt I was in a valley of windows and was amazed by their variety of colors, shapes and reflections. I began photographing buildings that year with no particular intent and continued on periodic return visits.

Most of my Photo-Quilts are digital prints on watercolor paper or canvas. I explored printing on fabric in the mid-1990s but found the colors to be too muted to be true to the photographs. I printed Pinwheel Fantasy using a Xerox heat transfer, a method used on T-shirts at the time, but found the firm surface and color reproduction untrue. I turned to cyanotype printing, an early photographic process, to make a quilt using old family photographs in a pattern I viewed every day on a wall of our bedroom. In 1991, I began classes at Berkeley City College and found printing on watercolor paper and canvas a good match for presenting my Photo-Quilts properly. A suggestion by another student led me to re-explore printing on fabric and to my delight the technology has yielded good prints. My most recent work, New York Windows/Empty Spools II (2014) and Narrow-boating On the Oxford Canal (2014) employed this method.

The Photolab Gallery presents


In the Photolab Gallery
Marcn 17 to May 3, 2014

Artist Reception
Sunday, March 30th
2 to 4pm

Photo Quilts by Sharin Smelser



I began to study the art of quilters and to collage
my photos in traditional American quilt patterns.

I have been working in the
“quilter’s mode” ever since,
showing my work in
both quilt shows
and art exhibitions.

Berkeley has been my home
for all my adult life but my childhood experiences in coastal Southern California have made their way into several pieces of my artwork, Rhapsody of the Waves, 2011, in particular. Another theme has been the American southwest, where I have photographed the ancient ruins and searched trading posts and pawn shops for Native American designs and patterns. I have turned to my camera on many short academic and longer sabbatical trips to produce nearly 30 “photo-quilts”. I was selected as an Artist In Residence at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 2011 and spent three weeks in a 1930s cabin on the rim as a base for photographing that area. Gifts from the North Rim, 2012, was made from that experience.

My work has always had a documentary aspect to it. For my MFA at Mills College (1986) I photographed 32 sixth graders twice a year for four years and interviewed them about their adolescence at graduation time. The exhibition for my degree was the first two years of that study. Adolescent Posturing and interviews of its subjects became a long- term exhibition at both the Education-Psychology Library on the Berkeley campus of the University of California and at the Center for Adolescent Study at Stanford University. My passion for photography began as a graduate student in Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I had written for high school and community college newspapers, then local newspapers before attending Northwestern. I was “hooked” when one class assignment was to “shadow” a Chicago daily newspaper reporter and submit my own stories and photos on his deadlines. 

Sharin Smelser



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