I have followed the career of Gloria Hansen for a long time and thought I knew her as an artist. Apparently not! Her new book, Gloria Hansen: An Evolution in Stitches, Paint, & Pixels reveals an artistic journey full of unexpected influences and is an amazing catalog of her art-making career. It reveals Gloria as a true renaissance woman, skilled in many artistic media and inspired by the world around her.
I love to see other artists’ studios and Gloria’s book opens with an introduction featuring several pages of her work spaces and materials. It’s glorious to see the sheer amount of stuff she has crammed in to her workspace; it’s reassuring that someone who makes such pristine artwork works in such a material-heavy environment.
Here was the first of many surprises about Gloria. She works in many media; her sample of a dog sketch in one of her journals was a revelation to me. You can see she really works in her journals and sketchbooks. The stack of books is huge and many of the books are lumpy with mixed media. Everywhere you look in the photos, you can see color and experimentation.
But, of course, Gloria is best known for her use of digital images printed on fabric and used in art quilts. The book begins with artwork from 2002 – present, including many of her awards, special exhibits, and her previous book, Digital Essentials. Gloria’s editorial voice is lively and she shares many photos taken at exhibits and events. It’s a personal book in the very best sense.
Gloria wisely devotes fifty-four pages to her newer artwork before turning to artwork and publications from three time periods 2000 – 2001, 1992 – 1999, 1986 – 1991, followed by a section on her embroidery work. Gloria’s talents as a writer were utilized early in her career and she also began winning awards for her innovative designs and beautiful stitching very early in her artistic career.
Surprise #2. I honestly didn’t know beautiful and integrated the stitching is on Gloria’s artwork. I appreciated the detail photos of the artworks featured as full-page photos and the frequent appearance of a small blurb about the artwork’s inspiration.
I appreciate how hard it is to sustain and grow a career, but Gloria has succeeded by working toward her strengths and evolving the complexity of her designs through her computer skills. The story of how those computer skills developed is also integral to the book.
The biggest surprise for me was the section about her embroidery work. Who knew? You can see the same attention to details and color that later appear in her art quilts.
Her “Closing Stories and Thoughts” begin, “I struggle . . . ” This typifies the tone of the entire book. It shows that great careers are made by experimenting, never giving up, being true to one’s skill base, and working, working, working. Kudos to Gloria for having the courage to share the entire journey of her career to date, rather than just the highlights.
I read it as the PDF file and it took me awhile to grasp the structure of the book; I kept going back to the Table of Contents to see where I was in Gloria’s journey. But if you are use to reading books on various tablets, I don’t think this would be a problem. Once I read the book, I read it again backwards. I agree with Gloria’s strategy in starting with the present and working backwards in time, but it was fun once I knew the whole story to see the growth and evolution of her artwork from the very beginning.
This book is not only inspiring, but it also a fine record of the career to date of one of our most well-known artists working with art quilts. If only mainstream publishers realized how important it is to record the history and development of pioneers in our field, such as Gloria. I’m thankful that Gloria made the time to create this record of a 30-year career and shared it so generously with us.