Clay Lohmann had enough sewn quilt material to cover every wall of The Arts Center in Corvallis for his featured exhibit there, but he wanted to do something different.
So the fiber artist invited his wife, Julie Green, and her colleagues Anna Fidler and Kerry Skarbakka to join him. They are faculty members in the School of Arts and Communication at Oregon State University.
"I asked if they wanted to join me and see what happens, because there's not a lot of connection between us, in terms of our work," he said.
The group arrived on the concept of "Logcabin Medley."
Lohmann built a 7-by-10 foot, three-dimensional cabin out of wood and draped it with 500 square feet of log-cabin-patterned quilt material as the centerpiece of the exhibit. Viewers can enter and sit inside it. The three other artists contributed a medley of works to display around the cabin.
The exhibit, which is on view through Sept. 30 at The Arts Center in Corvallis, is part of "Quilt County," an event organized every two years by the Marys River Quilt Guild and the Benton County Historical Society and Museum.
Curator Hester Coucke said The Arts Center always participates in "Quilt County" with the idea of taking quilt-making a step further by doing something unexpected.
Lohmann, who's been making quilts since 2008, seemed like an ideal choice.
"I knew that Clay made 'not your grandmother's quilts,'" Coucke said.
Lohmann's first challenge was to create the structure upon which to drape the quilt materials. He did not plan to build the cabin from scratch. He wanted to buy a portable building, but found out it lacked the required structural integrity.
His Plan B was to use a metal kiosk, similar to the ones at the Corvallis Farmers Market. Unfortunately, they are very expensive, he said.
So he ended up building the cabin himself, one that included hinges and was collapsible. But it took him three months.
"I worked five times longer on this wooden structure than I ever thought I was going to have to or intended to," Lohmann said.
A traditional quilt has three layers. The log-cabin pattern covering his cabin is just the quilt top, one layer, he said.
Behind the cabin is a quick stop-motion video, which shows him erecting the cabin and covering it.
Lohmann hopes his portion of the exhibit helps quilting gain more attention as an art form.
"It's been unrecognized in contemporary visual arts. I think that's a mistake, and I would like to change that equation," he said.
'A bigger whole'
The other artists made works in relation to and surrounding Lohmann's log cabin.
"You see small parts becoming a bigger whole," Coucke said. "That is the tradition of quilts."
The art most similar to Lohmann's belongs to Green, who also works in sections that are quilt-like, Coucke said.
Green is an award-winning artist whose long-term art project, "The Last Supper — Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates," has won national attention. She painted 700 meals inmates requested for their last meals on dishes.
Green displays two works in "Logcabin Medley." The first, "2-pack Trauma," is a series of 34 traumas painted from memory, Green said. She painted little vignettes on the cardboard surfaces of decade-old vinegar boxes with acrylic and glow-in-the-dark paint.
"I made a list of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me, so they are very personal," she said.
Green said she is a happy person who internalizes bad things, so painting the traumas was a cathartic experience.
"I'm proud to say I ran out of traumas to paint before I ran out of vinegar-box surfaces to paint on," she said.
Her second piece, "The Garden at 8 AM," features video and painting. Green shot a daily video standing in the same place in her garden every day for nearly a dozen years. The video captures the growth of her sunflowers, birds chirping and more.
Green added painting to the work after hearing a speech from artist Hasan Elahi in which he mentioned that the number of people on Facebook was greater than the population of China. Suddenly, the idea of using video to document a portion of one's life seemed less avant-garde than it did in 2002, so she turned to painting to supplement the work.
Green has a series of rectangle-shaped pieces of marker paper on the wall. Each represents a month and has smaller individual squares where she painted the garden view daily with sumi ink.
Some squares are blank; they represent days when she wasn't home or was ill.
The month of August is a round paper plate, representative of the recent eclipse.
Fidler shows three works in the exhibit that are thematically about subjects such as femininity, unity and nature, she said.
She made the first piece, "Witches Jamboree," collectively with a group of high school and college student interns in her studio this summer. They used colored pencils and washes of acrylic paint.
In her artist's statement, Fidler said that "Witches Jamboree" is a "large-scale drawing of my environmental heroines, The Leaf Girls. Wearing leaf masks and witch hats to disguise their true identity, the leaf girls cast spells on destroyers of the natural world."
She also displays two dresses that share fabric as the common thread with Lohmann's cabin.
Fidler includes leaf masks with the "Magician's Dress" and the "Tetragrammaton Dress." She made both in the mid-90s and considered them magical objects not to be worn.
"I embellished these Victorian dresses with intricate embroidery and collaged image-transfers to fabric. Every detail has symbolic relevance that I withhold from the viewer," she said.
"I aspire to engage the viewer with mystery, feminine strength and hopefulness in our current era," Fidler said.
Skarbakka shows a 12-foot-high photograph on vinyl, which towers over the cabin. It is a staged photo of his 2-year-old son, diapered, holding a toy Civil War musket and wearing a Confederate cap, as he stands in his little play cave of rhododendrons.
The photo, titled "Bloodline," was created two weeks before the violent protests in Charlottesville, Skarbakka said.
"The piece couldn't have been more timely, unfortunately," he added.
Skarbakka said his artist's statement asks the question: Where do the origins of different ideologies, hate and bigotry come from?
For an answer, Skarbakka ties this piece in connection with the notion of quilting, where one hands downs history, story and messaging through generations. In this sense, "this can start in the home. Children aren't born necessarily becoming people like this," he said.
To support his piece, Skarbakka referred to a Nelson Mandela quote, which Barack Obama recently tweeted after the Charlottesville events, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."
Skarbakka grew up Pentecostal in a country farm community called Dellrose, which is 30 minutes from where he went to high school in Pulaski, Tennessee, home of the Ku Klux Klan.
"I know these people. I know this life. And out of this contention and culture war that's happening right now in the United States, I am trying to see both sides of it," he said.
Skarbakka hopes the photo prompts conversations.
"Is there some place we can find this breakdown of animosity and actually start to talk about why this might be objectionable for one, or is it just a cute kid playing with some innocent toys?" Skarbakka said.