When Victoria van der Laan was a child, her grandmother would sit with her for hours at a time, teaching her embroidery. No matter how tidy the front of the piece, her grandmother always flipped over the hoop to inspect the back. “If the back wasn’t perfect, she would tell me to pull out this or redo that,” she says. “I learned early on that it was best to do it right the first time.” Now van der Laan is a textile artist, creating pieces that combine aspects of abstract painting and traditional quilt-making. “Breaking the rules can be the most effective thing,” she says.
Van der laan’s first solo exhibition will open this September at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs, New York. It will feature works she completed during the pandemic when she was thinking about how famous male artists’ paintings were inspired by block quilt patterns, such as those by Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. Most of her recent works are derived from the familiar Log Cabin pattern that appear on quilts stitched by grandmothers everywhere. “These are considered house tops, which are basically concentric squares,” she says. “I was riffing on that pattern and seeing how many variations I could do.” In her studio, van der Laan allowed the quilting scraps to fall in random heaps, and the interesting and unexpected color combinations found their way into her finished pieces. She believes that her art reflects those moments of subconscious serendipity, just as it does her childhood, when the women of her family taught her how to sew. “In my work, I’m always thinking about the role of women’s work—and not just women making textiles,” she says.
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