February 16 – April 21, 2018
This exhibition showcases an all new body of work by celebrated mixed-media fiber artist, Penny Sisto. The Sixties – Turn on, Tune in, Drop out! continues to follow many of the themes that has been at the center of Sisto’s work over the years — exploring people, politics, art, music, and spirituality — but presents them looking through the prism of the 1960s.
In addition to Sisto’s art quilts, the Carnegie Center will also be displaying a series of whimsical wooden creations by Pierce Whites. Whites hails from Frankfort, Kentucky and creates various colorful benches also inspired by the sixties, some of which include giant cocoons lamps dangling from honeysuckle branches. A steep rocky bluff along the North Fork of Elkhorn creek provides fallen wood and flood debris as raw materials for his work, and he adds coins and nail heads torch-fired with enamel to form their alert eyes.
Penny Sisto is an internationally recognized artist who has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad. International presentations of her work include the exhibition of a grouping of Holocaust quilts at the Gatehouse of Auschwitz and a selection of her Slavery series quilts that were displayed at the Royal Armories Museum in Leeds, England in 2008. She has won numerous awards and honors for her artwork and has been the subject of two public television programs. She is known for the difficult subjects, such as AIDS, poverty and racism that she addresses in her works, as she advocates for social justice and peace.
Born in the Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland, Sisto began learning how to sew at age three. As an adult she worked for the British Ministry of Overseas Development, utilizing her skills as a midwife to aid in health clinics for the Maasai, LuBukusu and Kikuyu tribes of East Africa. Her time in Africa inspired her to combine the quilting, embroidery and appliqué techniques she learned from her grandmother with the beading and collage methods of her African friends, resulting in the distinctive style seen in her work today.
Penny Sisto has received many commissions for quilts, including four works at the Abbey of Gethsemane, of which a 28 by 9 foot quilt entitled Risen Christ hangs at each Easter season and for funeral services. Some of the other collections containing Sisto’s works are: Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Lorretto, Thomas Merton International Studies Center, Spalding University, Kennedy Family and the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts. Selected grants that Penny Sisto has received include: Kentucky Foundation for Women, Indiana Arts Commission, Master Fellowship, New Directions and Southern Arts. In 1993 she was awarded a Baha’i Peace Award for Arts Promoting World Peace because of her promotion of peace and justice through her work.
Today, in her Floyds Knobs, Indiana studio, Penny’s work continues at a more prolific pace than ever.
“Artistically, Penny Sisto is a nomad. She makes a nomad’s art, like the carpets woven by nomadic peoples in the Middle East. Unlike traditional Western paintings and sculptures, her quilts are easily rolled or folded. This befits an artist whose life has been lived on the margins: between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea in the Orkney Islands, in the bush in Kenya, in rural Northern California and in exurban Kentucky and Indiana. “I never belonged anywhere,” Sisto remarks. In term of the geopolitics of contemporary art, hers is a resolutely Not in New York style. She brings to her work a transnational, transreligious, migrant imagination; a refugee, borderland, hybrid sensibility. Sisto’s quilts are to be located in the uncharted interstices between folk art and fine art, craft and pictorial art, trance-like ritual and a highly programmed and closely researched accounting of history, myth and faith.”
–Peter Morrin, Director Emeritus, Speed Art Museum