Wisconsin quilter Terese Agnew in spotlight on PBS Series


Wisconsin quilter Terese Agnew in spotlight on PBS Series
By Mary Louise Schumacher
May 10, 2012

If there is an artist in Wisconsin primed for the honor of a major retrospective, it is Terese Agnew, one of our state’s most accomplished artists.

In a certain respect, she is getting that honor Friday evening – from TV rather than the art world.

Agnew and her painstakingly made conceptual quilts will be featured on the Emmy-nominated, Peabody Award-winning documentary “Craft in America” on PBS. It airs on Friday at 8 p.m. on WMVS-TV (Channel 10).

Agnew turned to making quilts many years ago for a simple reason: She lived in Milwaukee and wanted to save on her heating bills. Her quilts can take two years or more to complete.

What sets Agnew’s art quilts apart, however, is more than craftsmanship. The quilts, which are in many museum and personal collections, are as rich in ideas as they are in visual sophistication and physical construction.

Her works are inspired by personal stories and a social consciousness, particularly issues related to the environment and labor.

The first episode of the PBS series, which focuses on four artists from across the country working with textiles, showcases many of Agnew’s major works, including “Portrait of a Textile Worker,” an image of a garment worker in Bangladesh carefully crafted from more than 30,000 garment labels donated from around the world.

Agnew is in eminent company on the program, alongside artists such as Faith Ringgold, whose story quilts are about the African-American experience and who is working on a piece about President Barack Obama; Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, who brings her experience as a child laborer in California into her artistic expression, large, mixed-media pieces that celebrate migrant workers and indigenous people; and Randall Darwall, whose sophisticated fabrics are also featured in the show.