Artist lovingly re-creates natural scenes in her quilts
Sumac Sparks by Michele O’Neil Kincaid.
"Poison on the Rocks" by Michele O’Neil Kincaid.
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Nature’s grandeur inspires many an artist, and her ferocity has been well documented of late. But fiber artist Michele O’Neil Kincaid prefers to focus on her playful side.
One of Kincaid’s favorite pieces in her solo show that’s now on display at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in Concord is a quilt called “Race,” which depicts a stick and a leaf floating down a brook that runs between two stones. Anyone who’s spent childhood days romping through the woods can picture the unseen hand that placed the objects in the water and the child watching to see which one would make it to the end first.
“Everything inspires me,” said Kincaid, a New Hampshire native who belongs to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and teaches her craft all over the country. “I love to find these little moments in nature.”
Likewise, Kincaid has found the playful side of fiber art. “I like texture – threads, yarns, fiber, bits of fabric, folded pieces, scrunched up pieces, anything that gives me the three dimensional feel,” she said. “I love color, too. I stick it wherever I can.”
Kincaid learned to sew from her grandmother and grew up making clothing. She had a business making wedding dresses for several years but found it increasingly incompatible with her lifestyle.
“I didn’t have the space for it, and I had pets. I didn’t want to deliver a dress with fur on it,” she said with a laugh.
Kincaid discovered quilting in the ’70s and, after mastering the various techniques, took the craft in her own direction, using it to depict her favorite scenes in nature and display her creativity. There is really no limit, she says, to what she can do with the craft.
One piece that demonstrates the versatility of fiber art is a collaborative piece she
did with serigraph artist William Mitchell. They picked out a photograph of a waterfall up north, then Mitchell created a watercolor painting from which Kincaid made big blocks of color.
After that, Mitchell silk-screened smaller areas of color on top, and Kincaid stitched and beaded it before giving it back to Mitchell to frame it. “We kept passing it back and forth,” she said.
The show is a nice fit with the Forest Society because it’s full of the lush, detailed scenes like you might find on a walk through the woods, said communications director Brenda Charpentier. “Anybody who likes nature is going to love this,” she said.
It’s a fascinating show too because, for all their depth and texture, the pieces look uncannily like paintings. “You look at it and you can’t believe it’s fiber art,” Charpentier said.
Kincaid enjoys that balance between making something that speaks to reality and imagination at the same time. “I call myself a traditional quilter run amok,” she said.
Kincaid’s work is on display through Dec. 31 in the conservation building meeting room at the Forest Society, 54 Portsmouth St. in Concord. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are advised to call first, as the room is sometimes used for meetings. For information, call 224-9945 or visit forestsociety.org.