TOPSHAM — When artist Natasha Kempers-Cullen creates an original, collage-construction quilt, her approach is direct, simple and elementary. However, getting the finished visual effects she wants can be very time-consuming. For example, she often adds dimension with a layer of tiny glass beads and buttons by sewing them on, one at a time. This can take many, many hours.

“I love the way the beads catch and reflect the light, so I am willing to do the work to create that effect,” she said.

Maine Fiberarts Center/Gallery is showcasing Kempers-Cullen’s work in a retrospective exhibition titled “My Journey: 20 Years of Art Quilts” through Feb. 26.

Working at her local studio, the artist paints and prints all of the fabrics for her quilts. Paintings are cut into smaller shapes and arranged, collage-style, to create compositions. Collages are overlaid with tulle and machine stitched, creating an overall grid, thus adding color, pattern and stability.

Then batting and backing are put in place and more stitching is added. Some of these works may have additional hand-stitching and/or beading to create a richer, more complex surface.

Noticeable throughout her work is the interplay of colors to create a sense of energy and celebration of life. The house shape is used repeatedly to represent love, strength and stability. Often flame shapes, representing positive energy, surround these house images.

Kempers-Cullen studied studio art as an undergraduate student at Middlebury College. Subsequently, she has studied many aspects of fiber art, notably at Haystack Mt. School of Crafts. She taught art in public schools, including Freeport High School, for 16 years.

For the past 20 years, Kempers-Cullen has worked full time as a studio artist and has continued to teach aspects of her art form in workshops and art schools throughout the United States.

She has work in the permanent collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and has completed several One Percent for Art commissions for schools in Maine. Her work has been exhibited in venues all over the United States.

In 1993, Kempers-Cullen carved a print block consisting of three dancing figures. These figures, representing the positive aspects of people playing and working together, have since become integral parts of many of her quilts.

Established in 2000, Maine Fiberarts is a statewide nonprofit whose mission is to advance Maine fiber in all aspects – art, craft, farm, school and business – through networking, displays and education.

Exhibits at the Maine Fiberarts Center/Gallery, at 13 Main St., change every two months. They are open to the public weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.mainefiberarts.org or call 721-0678.


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