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Grant Brings Sierra Nevada Quilt Exhibit to Campus

February 12, 2015

Detail of "Nevada Orogeny" by Ann Johnston

The UC Merced Art Gallery presents “The Contact: Quilts of the Sierra Nevada” by Ann Johnston, through March 20. Made possible through grant support from the Center for the Humanities, “The Contact” features 14 quilts inspired by the Sierra Nevada.

Jerrold Shiroma, digital assets librarian, wrote the proposal to bring Johnston’s work to UC Merced under the Center for the Humanities’s “Topsy Turvy” theme. The term “contact” is used to describe the place where geologic units touch, and it’s an inescapable theme in Johnston’s quilts. Her connection to the Sierra Nevada is strong — her family has held a mining claim near Tioga Pass since the 1800s — and it comes to life in the exhibit.

“The first contact that resonates through this project is indeed a geologic one, where some 200 million years ago, the Earth was upended, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains began to take shape,” Shiroma wrote in his proposal. “Johnston navigates this shaping — a “topsy-turvy” event if there ever was one — by recreating, via her complex and deliberate dyeing techniques, the various points of contact between geologic layers.” 

Global Arts Studies Program instructor Tonya Lopez-Craig, who curated the exhibit, said Johnston’s work is impressive in its concept, beauty and technique. The quilts are all 7 feet in height, with varying widths. Each piece began as plain, white fabric that Johnston transformed through dyeing and sewing techniques.

“Her advanced dyeing methods make the quilts look like paintings,” Lopez-Craig said. “The history of quilting is a rich one, and we are quite happy to highlight this respected medium in the gallery for everyone to enjoy.”

An opening reception for the exhibit was held Thursday, Feb. 12. The UC Merced Art Gallery, in SSM 106, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For information: tlopez-craig@ucmerced.edu or jshiroma@ucmerced.edu.