Amy Ahlstrom

Over the last ten years I have been creating urban quilts: textiles inspired by the street art, signage, and graffiti in city neighborhoods. Utilizing hundreds of digital photos of found images, I designed collages by computer, made paper patterns, and created hand-cut and sewn quilts. The resulting quilts, made of silk and cotton and stretched onto frames, re-imagine the urban landscape and re-invent quilting as a pop art medium.

During the past year, I have been working on two new series. The first project is designed to create more visibility for women. The goal of this ongoing art project is to create a series of “double portraits” of women: to show their view of themselves versus what society thinks of them, or how they are viewed and/ or treated in society simply based upon their female status. Women are looked at in our society, but they are rarely seen. These quilts show the viewer images of strong women alongside their own words in order to “talk back” to society at large and to reclaim their own physical appearance for themselves.

In this project, a portrait is created through an image of a woman wearing a simple black t-shirt, upon which is a statement of her choosing that expresses something about herself. Alongside it is the identical portrait reversed, with a statement that begins the same way, but then becomes how society views her. The concept of the double portrait stems from the idea that women have a double identity: their true selves and the identity that is imposed upon them. The viewer then “sees” the discrimination that women are commonly subjected to alongside her humanity and uniqueness as a person. My goal is to create a room full of double portraits to spark conversation and connection and to illuminate a variety of diverse perspectives of what it means to be female in today’s society.

The second series of quilts to be exhibited are inspired by a collaboration with needlepoint artist Margaret Timbrell. We each created artwork based upon comments made to us about our art. My quilts depict the comments along with images of myself or Timbrell, based upon the person for whom the comment was intended. I designed bright and cheery floral backgrounds with heavy black text to create contrast; the text itself is often slightly derogatory, and thus also creates a contrast itself when compared to the look and feel of the quilt design. The images of Timbrell and myself look at the viewer sardonically and lend the quilts a gently sarcastic humor.

For more information about the artist, please visit her website.