The American researcher: Victoria Van Der Laan

Don’t forget to forget2022, reconstituted and quilted cotton fabric, 31 x 31 inches.

When Victoria Van der Laan was a child, her grandmother sat with her for hours, teaching her embroidery. No matter how tidy the front of the piece was, her grandmother always turned the hoop over to inspect the back. “If the back wasn’t perfect, she would tell me to take this out or do that again,” she says. “I learned early on that it’s better to do things right the first time.” Today, 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 in September at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs, New York. It will feature works she made during the pandemic as she reflected on how paintings by famous male artists were inspired by block quilt designs, such as those of Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. Most of her recent work is derived from the familiar Log Cabin pattern that appears all over quilts sewn by grandmothers. “These are considered house roofs, which are basically concentric squares,” she says. “I was riffing on this pattern and seeing how many variations I could do.” In her studio, Van Der Laan let quilt scraps fall in haphazard piles, and the interesting and unexpected color combinations found their way into her finished pieces. She believes her art reflects these moments of unconscious serendipity, much like her childhood, when the women in her family taught her how to sew. “In my work, I always think about the role of women’s work, not just women making textiles,” she says.

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