Clara Wainwright at the Hammond Art Gallery

Clara. (Photo by Radio Boston)

Clara Wainwright at work. (Photo by Radio Boston)

By Kyle Swirbliss

When you think art, chances are you don’t think about quilts at all, but one artist dares to challenge the ideas of traditional art. The gallery in Hammond Hall here at Fitchburg State University showcases many local artists and their works over the school year for students and faculty to enjoy.

Many have wandered past the gallery and have been slightly puzzled to see a variety of colorful and quite decorative quilts hanging on the walls, but this is the non-traditional medium that allows artist Clara Wainwright to express her creativity and feelings while using her excellent quilting skills.

Her work has been on display in galleries, museums, and homes all over Massachusetts (including; Somerville, Boston, Danvers, and Gloucester). Her work is in permanent collections in institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.

Clara was the recipient of a Commonwealth Award in 1999, which is presented in the state of Massachusetts every two years and is considered the highest honor in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences.

Some of Wainwright’s latest work titled “Mending a torn world” is now on display in the Hammond Art Gallery showcasing more than 15 different quilts and will be displayed until the end of December. She said, “Mending A Torn World is an example of the collaborative work I have been involved in for many years.

When I had a retrospective at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester in 2010, this piece was set out on a large table and people were invited to mend parts of the world they were concerned with or work on their own community of Gloucester.”

Many of her quilts are inspired by and driven by the news, such as The Mars Rover landing, Climate Change, The Iraq War, and even the Marathon Bombing, turning the negatives of the world into something beautiful and worthwhile.

“Ever since the war in Iraq, I have been fascinated by the Middle East and its troubles we are involved in. I also am fascinated by the animal world, particularly the worlds of birds and dogs- the way they live free beyond all the craziness of human life” says Wainwright.

She describes how the art got started: “I began making quilts when my son Dedalus was born in 1971, inspired by an amazing crazy quilt he was given. At first I worked from home in a spare bedroom, but when we adopted Caroline from Korea three years later, I found a 2,000 square foot studio in Somerville which allowed me to expand from small patchwork pieces to large collages.”

Over the past 40 plus years Clara has managed to keep involved with the art community and groups all across Massachusetts helping to contribute and give back with art.

Displays like Clara’s are essential for reminding us of all the good art can do and how art can be made from most anything, inspiring others to be the best self they can be for themselves and one another.

Take a break from studying and check out Wainwright’s exhibit in the Hammond gallery until Dec. 19.

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