Issue August 27, 2008

Profile – Valerie C. White – Quilter

Photo by Jane Mattingly
Photo by Jane Mattingly

The first thing people notice are the colors,” quilt artist Valerie C. White says. “My palette is a hot palette, warm colors, not cool colors. My favorite color? Like my favorite child, I say I don’t have one. But I now notice I have orange in all my quilts, as if to say, ‘It’s hot over here, you need to come over.’ I use the heat to draw you in.”

Her quilts are hard to miss. Besides the colors, the symbolic designs, resulting from her study of art history and African-American culture, are meant to intrigue.

White likes to produce series. Her current one features the earth, highly detailed with cross-sectioned layers of soil and water. Sometimes an anthropomorphic sun, a favorite motif, dominates the design. The 56-year-old is fascinated with “what’s down under,” such as root systems and plant growth. 

It wasn’t until she moved to Louisville more than five years ago that she changed from traditional quilting to art quilts. She joined River City Fiber Artists, an organization that provided the necessary professional advice and friendship.

White says classifications for quilting have in recent years. “It is important to note that fiber art is being recognized as fine art, not craft, the same as painting and sculpture,” she says. “It’s a different world out there.” Quilting was — and in most cases, still is — a practical activity. Textile artists like Faith Ringgold and Penny Sisto helped move the quilt from the bed to the gallery wall.

White’s quilts have recently been featured in the books “Textural Rhythms: Quilting the Jazz Tradition” and “Quilting African-American Women’s History: Our Challenges and Champions,” both by Carolyn Mazloomi.

After years of living in places like Washington, D.C., and Greensboro, N.C., she’s content with where she’s landed. “I love Louisville. It’s an art-friendly city, welcoming and opening, trying to help you find your way. To me, it’s the best.” —Jo Anne Triplett