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The Surprise of Katie Pasquini Masopust's Capriccio

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Now through Jan. 22 at The Morris Graves Museum of Art, Katie Pasquini Masopust displays her mastery of quilting and painting. Infusing her foundation in painting with her expertise in quilting, Pasquini Masopust invites spectators to see through a new and unique lens that at once comforts and stretches the imagination in her latest exhibition entitled Capriccio.

Prior to attending the exhibit I admit I had several assumptions about this traditional craft and the artist. However, like the title of the show, which Pasquini Masopust later described to me as meaning "outside of the box," I was given an unexpected glimpse into a joyful multidimensional and timeless world. The myriad of colors, patterns, and various scenes depicted had my imagination swirling. I found myself peering into whimsical gateways to other worlds. Admiring her piece entitled "Mescolana," which was undoubtedly my favorite, I transported me back in time to when I was a little girl and I'd snuggle up to my quilted baby blanket and dream up scenes dancing across the textiles. In this piece, a web of white circles overlap and intersect over light and deep purples and yellows that seem like splashes of watercolor from a distance.

The way her alternative quilt designs — with their painterly shapes and compositions — came to life, I found myself resisting the temptation to reach out and touch them. It was the combination of all the colors and knowing they were soft, fabric quilts — alas! I was able to talk myself out of tampering with the fascinating designs. By this point all previous misconceptions I had about what quilts could be were utterly extinguished.

Roaming the gallery amidst the crowd of fellow captivated onlookers one of whom exclaimed, "I love her disruption of symmetry." As if responding to the remark, I spotted Pasquini Masopust standing in the back of the room opposite me. She was smiling ear to ear as she greeted me.

Pasquini Masopust did not grow up in a family of quilters. Instead, she culled her expertise from a few dedicated and passionate mentors. Among them was high school art teacher Jim Sullivan, who died recently. It was under his instruction Pasquini Masopust began to develop confidence in her artistry. She shared that Sullivan was her favorite teacher, a sentiment shared with many students during his 30-year career at Eureka High School.

So where does the quilt making come in? She says of her humble beginnings in quilt making, "I took a class and I thought it was embroidery, but it ended up being a quilting class. And I thought, 'This isn't really what I wanted to do.' I ended up staying in the class. It was a really good, cathartic thing to do while I was caring for my terminally ill mother, and they were just really supportive of my ideas and what I wanted to do, and so I thought, 'OK, I'll just make one quilt,' you know? Now here's 40 years and hundreds of quilts later, I'm doing it!" She later studied under Michael James, whom she calls "The best quilter of all time." He eventually became her mentor and inspiration for becoming a teacher herself. In retrospect, it was really in community with encouraging artists and quilt makers that Katie developed her talent for paint-infused quilt making. Her reflection on the journey to becoming an expert in her field is a touching reminder of the influential role teachers and mentors play in shaping the lives of their students.

Pasquini Masopust hopes to familiarize the public with her take on the quilting she loves, "to have people come in and say, 'Oh, I thought those were paintings,' until they get up close and see that they're all made out of fiber. That's what I'm trying to do, to get people to be more familiar with it and accept it." The exhibition accomplishes this and more. Her quilts may not have been made to be pulled around you, but they still have an uncanny way of warming the soul and inspiring vision from the inside out. Capriccio will inspire you and tempt you. Just remember, do not touch!

Aundrea Stuckey (aka Aundrea All'Love, she/her) is a culture bridging activist, co-leader of Art Representaiton & Culture, and director of Youth Art Will Succeed. Reach her at y.a.w.s.inc@gmail.com. Follow on Instagram @youth.art.will.succeed and @art.representation.culture.

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