Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mary Catherine Lamb

Friday I met Gerrie downtown to celebrate her birthday and to see Mary Catherine Lamb's quilts that are showing at the Nine Gallery in NW Portland.

Mary Catherine Lamb died in August from complications from breast cancer. I never met her, though she lived here in Portland, but knew her quilts quite well. They are so clever with their imagery of saints and apostles, using a vast array of vintage fabrics and doodads, with their very Byzantine faces and poses. I really connected the first time I saw them. I always hoped I would meet her one day and felt such sadness to read of her death.

This one is titled The Archangel Michael bids you Aloha. You can't see it in my photo, but the coral colored background fabric is a souvenir tablecloth printed with Hawaiian flowers and the word "Aloha".

Here's a detail.

I love the look of Byzantine art, which was obviously an inspiration to her. Here is a Byzantine image of Michael the Archangel from the 12th century. This may very well have been her inspiration.

And details of two more of Mary Catherine's quilts.

Very sad to know that there will be no more of this wonderfulness.


  1. Art is immortal. Especially religious art. Although her expression was unique, living traditions are strong enough to remain a line of inspired artists.

  2. Special, spiritual work,which would be extremely tough to do. Something to remember her by.

  3. Susan LT6:24 AM

    Stunning work. Thank you so much for sharing. Good photos too.

  4. Thank you and Gerrie for sharing this work that I would otherwise most likely not know about. I love scrappy, naive textile art like Pam Allen's and Bodil Gardner's and Mary Lamb's fits in with that same aesthetic. Thanks again.


  5. MC would take something like the icon image and grid it out, blow it up, and piece each gridded rectangle and then put them together. She was a aficionado of vintage fabrics (had a whole fan club on E-Bay of fellow fanatics) and, I think, was poking gentle fun at both the world of 50's or thereabouts fabric and religious icons. She was a fanatic about detail and her "naive" art was about as sophisticated as studio art quilts get.

    Glad you got to see her work, Terry. It is so personal -- so out of her past and present that it will go on for a long time. Were they selling pieces at Nine? Her house is full of treasures, also -- a collector's (or collectors, plural) dream.

  6. June, the work was not for sale.

    Nice thoughts that art is immortal, art goes on, new artists will take up where she left off, etc, but her work is so much a part of her life, her point of view, her sense of humor that I think it stands as a "moment" in the continuum and will never be repeated in the same way. I hope we all do that with our work, but I believe, strongly that her work was very special and unique to her vision.

  7. Thank you for sharing this Terry - just wonderful though very sad indeed.

  8. The faces are amazing! How in the world did she do them?

  9. Good Morning Terry - I'm looking for some additional info on making the fabric birds showcased in the IQF:Quilt Scene magazine. Right now my question is the beak. The dot on the beak pattern should go where on the head? It looks as though the sides of the beak do not go to the edges of the underside of the head. This is hard for me to explain but perhaps you understand. Many thanks.