.Art Quilting – Cara Gulati’s fabric masterpieces come to MarinMOCA this month

By Jane Vick

“Cara Gulati: Wrapped in Color” is a curation of art quilts by artist member Cara Gulati, opening June 18 at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MarinMOCA).

The exhibit is part of the 2022 Members’ Showcase exhibition series juried by Donna Seager of Seager Gray.

After five years of designing, manufacturing and wholesaling children’s clothing, Gulati transitioned to art quilt making full time and now creates colorful, dimensional works of fabric art.

Her work is sizable, with pieces measuring 10’x 8’. Her quilts are full of color and motion, featuring ribbons and billowing fabric.

Gulati’s rendering of fabric upon fabric makes for a fascinatingly mind-bending experience, and the bright colors, often set against a dark background, create an undeniable sense of space, as though one is looking not at, but into the quilt.

In addition to her work in art quilting, which includes teaching and lecturing internationally, Gulati illustrates and publishes books and patterns for art quilters.

For Gulati, color is the most important part of her creative process. In her own words, she searches for “bright, saturated colors that make the heart pound faster, the pupils dilate and the hands desire to reach out to touch.”

Gulati doesn’t seek to create for a specific reason, or to convey a message of any kind, and doesn’t necessarily feel that her art has—or even needs—any meaning, in a specific sense. She explores fluid shapes such as scrolls and ribbons, playing with shading and color to create the three-dimensional quality so evident in her quilts, and revels in the challenge each design presents. She is drawn to the tactile quality of an art quilt, which, unlike with a painting, moves and changes as malleable fabric. She sees a personality and individuality in each of her pieces.

“A lot of artists make things for a reason; I just don’t do that. I make it because I love to do it and it’s wonderful to look at. I don’t know how to say it; I’m just not into all that other stuff,” said Gulati.

Gulati’s art quilts are an homage to the Greek concept Philokalia, meaning the love of the good and the beautiful. Her art quilts are a testament to the beauty of color, fabric and imagery. They are like poppies in a field, or the Milky Way, or a striking formation of cumulus clouds.

Raised in Sacramento with two grandmothers who made clothes and sewed often, Gulati wanted to go into the world of fashion designing for the glamor. After studying business and fashion design in college, she began her children’s clothing manufacturing company, Simon Says, which she enjoyed for five years. When Gulati found herself ready for a career change, she recalled taking a quilting class years previously and decided to revisit the practice professionally.

Perhaps in addition to her talent there is a sprinkle of serendipity about Gulati, because things unfolded—fabric pun intended—in an exciting way. Gulati took a job at a quilt store, joined several local guilds and attended meetings where famous art quilters from around the world would come to lecture. Seeing an opportunity to combine art, work and international travel, Gulati decided this was her next role.

A designer already, she began to design and publish her own quilt patterns, as well as writing books, going on quilt-related TV shows, designing fabric lines and attending wholesale quilt markets, where she was able to rub elbows with the art quilting industry people. This exposure led to a career of traveling around the world, teaching and lecturing on the process of art quilting. Gulati spent the next 20 years traveling and teaching before “sticking a fork in it” in 2018.

Gulati now spends the majority of her time conceptualizing and developing art quilts for galleries and museums. Most recently, she curated an art quilt exhibition through Studio Art Quilt Associates, called “Prism Play,” which features 62 pieces of art and is currently showing at the Peninsula Museum of Art in San Bruno.

Gulati joined MarinMOCA in the early 2000s, to connect with local artists and the community. As she was on the road for half of every month teaching, she wasn’t able to get more involved until 2021, when she rejoined and volunteered as a greeter and in various other roles, fulfilling the obligations of an artist member with the museum. She now rents a studio space, and when the opportunity arose for a solo showcase, she leapt at it. It’s her goal to continue showing her work in museums to communicate the very real art of art quilting.

‘Cara Gulati: Wrapped in Color’ opens to the public on Saturday, June 18, with a reception from 2-4pm, and is on view through Aug. 14. www.marinmoca.org

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