Sm{art}: Not your grandmother's quilts

Textiles have been an important part of Linda Gass' life since childhood, when her grandmother taught her to sew doll clothes. After earning a BS in Mathematics and an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, and a 10-year career detour through the software industry, Linda turned back to textiles as a way to illuminate the changing landscape behind some of the region's most contentious water struggles.

Gass' art is informed by her love of the outdoors, the science of land use, maps, aerial photography, historical knowledge of the areas, and her activist passions. While she uses quilting techniques, the final artworks resemble something closer to soft sculpture or painting with fabric. Silk crepe de chine is painstakingly painted by hand using acid dyes, gutta-serti (a plant-based dye/resist technique often used on silks), and salt effects. 

The results are sumptuous, graphic, and at times startlingly realistic artworks that manage to be both personal and epic.

Art quilts by Linda Gass

(above left: Dumbarton Crossing, 28.75” w x 29.25” h.  Right: Puzzle of Salt, 29.5” w x 28.5” h.)

Linda writes, “I deliberately work in textiles with the intention to reach as many people as possible with the issues expressed in my work. Textiles are an unintimidating medium; people feel a familiarity and comfort with fabric since it plays such an integral and basic part in our lives.”

“I use the lure of beauty to both encourage people to look at the hard environmental issues we face and to give them hope. My paintings are done on silk, a naturally beautiful surface, and I gravitate towards luminous, saturated colors, giving my work an optimistic feeling. Although many of the landscapes I depict are ugly in reality, my landscapes are beautified as I prefer to engage the viewer through pleasure. I am trying to create an attitude shift from feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems to feeling inspired and empowered to take action through the experience of art.”

I had the chance to see her latest work at Lewis and Clark's Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art in Portland, as part of the recent show “New Shades of Green.”

"Sanitary?" and detail

(Above: Sanitary?, 30” w x 30” h, with detail at right.)

Visit Gass' website to see examples of landscape quilts in her home area of San Francisco, her new work, and for a list of upcoming speaking engagements and shows that span the US.

by Kristin Rogers Brown
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Kristin Rogers Brown is a creative director, designer, and problem-solver. She was Bitch Media’s Art Director (2010-2018). When not designing, you can find her teaching illustration and design at PNCA or hoping to pet your dog. Follow her on twitter or instagram.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted


I'm a quilter myself—granted, right now I only do plain old patchwork—but those are really gorgeous. It's wonderful that she's using them to make statements about the environment, too.

I have a serious obsession

I have a serious obsession with topographic maps and these are gorgeous! I would hang one above my bed and stare at it all day!

These are amazing!

I can't believe they're quilts! These are so cool! Thanks for posting this!

These are really wonderful,

These are really wonderful, and it's always nice to see quilting treated as the art that it is. But I wish you'd chosen a headline other than the cliche "Not your Grandma's..." Nothing in the hipster craft renaissance would be possible without our grandmas and the craft skills they passed on. The quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, got a retrospective in the De Young for their astonishing abstract quilts (check 'em out here: and a lot of those artists were, in fact, somebody's grandma.

Thanks for the kind words,

Thanks for the kind words, AND I see your point about Grandmas. Not to say that grandmothers and their quilts aren't completely amazing, or that Linda and other artists aren't somebody's grandma.

GREAT link.


i'm not particularly into quilts but these look awesome!

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