Friday, June 26, 2020

The Radical At of God: The Quilting of Rosie Lee Tompkins

By Roberta Smith
The size of a small billboard, this 1996 quilt pieces together a folkloric dish towel, chunks of the American flag and a mass-produced tapestry of Jesus. UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Eli Leon Bequest; Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
“I think it’s because I love them so much that God let me see all these different colors,” Tompkins once said of her patchworks. “I hope they spread a lot of love.” This September many more people will have similar moments of their own, and feel the love implicit in her extraordinary achievement, when “Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective” — the artist’s largest show yet — opens its doors once more at the Berkeley Art Museum for a run through Dec. 20. (It debuted briefly in February before the coronavirus lockdown.) The museum’s website currently offers a robust online display and 70-minute virtual tour. The quilter felt she was an instrument of God and saw her work as an expression of her faith and his designs. “If people like my work,” she once told [collector] Eli, “that means the love of Jesus Christ is still shining through what I’m doing.” [More
A triumphal retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum confirms her standing as one of the great American artists — transcending craft, challenging painting and reshaping the canon.