Denver Post - Sunday 03/21/2010
What needles one Colorado
J. Bruce Wilcox says his work goes beyond "quilting"
By Claire Martin
The Denver Post
J. Bruce Wilcox began creating/exhibiting his textile art
in 1977 with a piece that employed cotton string as a
quilting material and won a Best-In-Show award. Over
three decades later, he's turned that avocation into
His studio at 280 Galapago Street, Denver,
Colorado, is open for First Friday art walks, and his work
has been featured in art books, traveling exhibits and,
currently, in the "Wranglers Among Us: Quilts by Men" exhibit
at Golden's Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.
He has a solo show coming up at Regis
University in May.
Denver Post Q:You make quilts, but you
don't consider yourself a quilter?
JBW A: As
a working artist I learned over the years that I simply
don't think like most quilters. The word "quilt" conjures
up certain images. A quilt is a noun that describes something
warm, comfy and functional. I don't make anything that
fits that description. To quilt is a verb referring to
a specific skill used in manufacturing the noun. I'm
a fiber artist. I make non-functional textile art, not
Denver Post Q: Yet right now you're in
a show featuring male quilters at the Rocky Mountain Quilt
JBW A: The
RMQM exhibits both functional and non-functional work.
I have the distinction of being THE male who's hung in
more of their men's shows than anybody else. I have greater
alignment with the non-group of men. But I also got into
the Colorado Art Open 2009 at the Foothills Art Center,
juried by Michael Chavez and Christoph Heinrich.
Denver Post Q: How do you feel about
being a male artist in a medium traditionally dominated
by female artists?
JBW A: I've
been dealing with the gender issue from the beginning,
and it's time for it to change. There are no longer any
good reasons for anybody to continue to assume that anything
can be defined as women's work, a shameful derogatory
label that, when used recently by the Post, even offended
some of my women friends. I live with another male, yet
I'm an independent entity, part of no couple. There are
no women around. We both cook, clean, do laundry and
take the garbage out. There is no "women's work" being
done. The domestic work of any household can no longer
be defined as women's. Both women and straight men need
to get this.
Denver Post Q: How would you describe
JBW A: As
self-taught, though at 56, looking back on my growth
experience, a better description would be that I went
through a process of remembering who I already was. At
this stage I describe myself as absolutely relentless
in pursuit of financial success as an artist before I'm
dead, not after.
Denver Post Q: Does anyone ever tell
you that looking at one of your pieces makes their eyes
JBW A: When
that happens I know I've succeeded! My friends use the
term "retinal fatigue." One of the primary
things I'm working with is the vibration caused by both
related and unrelated patterns/colors juxtapositioned
next to each other.
Denver Post Q: How does one of your pieces
JBW A: I'm
a designer of intricate interlocking tessellations. As
I am developing a pattern I compile a palette. My palette
can consist of a single fabric cut off grain and recombined-
or one to two hundred different textiles in a single
piece of art.
Denver Post Q: Then what do you do?
JBW A: I
cut out an enormous number of individual parts and then
lay out the entire piece to determine an approximate
finished size/shape. I then build it, usually from the
bottom up, constantly rearranging the individual parts
during construction until the finished work emerges.
Yet this is only the surface, and the work isn't completed
until it has gone through a hand stitching phase and
is finally bound, prepared to hang and signed.
Denver Post Q: Would you see yourself
in the company of La Veta quilter Ricky Tims?
JBW A: Since
this conversation isn't about Ricky I'm not sure why
you'd even bring him up... Ricky's a performer/entertainer
who's comfortable both getting on stage in front of large
groups of mostly women, and teaching. This has led to
his "recognizability" in a relatively short
period of time. I am an artist/mystic who spends a great
deal of time turned inward in meditation/contemplation
mode having a direct creation experience. The only thing
I teach is how one can remove all dysfunctional behavior
patterns from one's belief structure so one can be more
easily present with the divine while creating.
As an artist I've been at this two
to three times longer than Ricky has. And I have virtually
no interest in hanging out with large groups of mostly
women. I grew up the local outcast and have remained
an outsider. I evolved into a totally unique individual
that doesn't need the group. When involved with the group
I've mostly sat in the back of the room and kept my mouth
shut. Why? Because I knew if I said anything, I'd offend
someone. And when I finally did open my mouth, I offended