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About this new exhibit, Carnegie Center curator Karen Gillenwater writes, “The title of this exhibition, Earth-Tones, reflects its focus on two recent series by Penny Sisto. We begin with ‘earth,’ a series that stems from Penny’s experiments with dying fabrics with coffee and then working with them to create subtle quilts that express her impressions of aspects of the stages of life. The coffee-stained fabrics imbue these works with a sense of nature and history. The second part, ‘tones,’ is named for another series of artworks that explore the importance of music to cultural traditions across the globe.”

In her artist’s statement for Earth-Tones, Penny writes, “This show Earth-Tones roughly divides into two groups. First are people of our planet..from the Earth-song mother holding her newborn child as villagers bring her offerings of fruits and chickens and a musician serenades her baby on his steel-drum, to the story-telling griots. Griots are musician poets who travel from village to village in West Africa singing, chanting and reciting the history of their people. They memorize the entire known history, taking several days to tell it, adding to their repertoire as Earth’s story grows. We listen because it is also our ‘Earth-tone’, our story, and we add our own threads to its quilt.”

She continues, “The second group came into being because of coffee…and I don’t even drink coffee! But Richard my husband does. He set his cup down on my ironing board one hot summer morn, and it spilled! As I ironed it dry I saw sheer beauty appear. Coffee caramelized and sizzled into the cloth under my scorching iron, creating its own tones and magic. I saw faces and landscapes and music appear in the stains. In this series we catch a glimpse of the moment when the tones, the inner music of the Earth, which is such a private thing, leaves the musicians and enters us, and we too echo the Earth-Tones.”

Penny Sisto lives in Floyds Knobs, Indiana and 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. Sisto 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. Visit for more information.


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