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Joan Schulze

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joan Schulze
Born (1936-10-13) October 13, 1936 (age 87)
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Known forFiber art, Collage
AwardsFresno Art Museum's Distinguished Woman Artist of 2017[1]

Joan Schulze (born October 13, 1936) is an American artist, lecturer, and poet. Schulze's career spans over five decades: she is best known for her work of contemporary quilts, fiberarts, and collage. Schulze has been named a “pioneer of the art quilt movement,”[2] and her influence has been compared to that of Robert Rauschenberg’s.[3] Her work is in galleries and private collections worldwide including the Renwick Gallery/Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, & the Oakland Museum of California.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Schulze, daughter of Joseph and Ann Smith, was born in Chicago, Illinois.[5] Schulze is the oldest daughter and second of six children.[5] During her high school years, Schulze was introduced to sewing in a home economics class that taught her how to fashion her own articles of clothing.[6] After her graduation from Chicago's Lindblom Technical High School in January 1954, Schulze went on to earn her bachelor's degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating in January 1958.[5] Art classes in high school and college revealed Schulze's natural gifts as an artist, yet Schulze put aside her desires to choose this path, favoring the practicality and secure nature of a career as an educator.[7]

Immediately upon her graduation from college, Schulze began to work as an elementary school teacher.[5] In 1959, she married husband James Schulze, and their four children were born between the years of 1962 and 1969.[5]


Early years[edit]

Schulze relocated to California from Texas in 1966, a move that brought Schulze's artistic passions into focus and informally marked her transition from schoolteacher to professional artist.[5] Her new environment nourished her artistic inclinations: she was inspired by the rich and picturesque terrain that California offered, sceneries that contrasted greatly with Chicago's cityscapes.[8] Additionally, Schulze was stimulated by the significant number of artists in her community, motivating her to follow in their footsteps.[9] She began honing her sewing and embroidery skills through workshops in the Peninsula Stitchery Guild, as well as the Bay Area Arts and Crafts Guild, of which she became president in the mid-1970's.[10] After realizing it would not be sustainable to return to her career as an elementary school teacher, Schulze made the decision to officially pursue art full-time in 1970.[11] This commitment would include showing her work in exhibitions & galleries, selling work, and teaching.[12] Schulze made her first quilt in 1974 after she was approached to teach an adult education class on quilt-making.[13] While she was already well acquainted with needle & thread, this first attempt at quilting came as an exercise of preparation and qualification to teach the class.[13] Schulze, a self-proclaimed “autodidact,” received no formal training and little art instruction before and during her career as an artist, choosing instead to rely on instinct and experimentation.[12] Apart from two art courses in high school and college, Schulze attributes three formative learning experiences with providing her the necessary tools and inspiration to bring her visions to life: single-day workshops with the Peninsula Stitchery Guild, a year-long photography course at DeAnza College, and a week-long quilt workshop with Constance Howard (artist) in San Francisco in 1974.[14] After meeting Howard in 1974, the two became close associates, their relationship evolving into one of mentorship and friendship that lasted until Howard's death in 2000.[14] Howard inspired Schulze to take her career to the next level, giving her the advice, encouragement (“‘Do more, Joan. Do more!’”),[15] and guidance that bolstered her professional career.[14]

Artistic development and mature work[edit]

Throughout her career, Schulze has experimented with collage, fiber art techniques, quilt making, and alternative printmaking among other mediums.[6] Schulze is guided by the principle that subject matter and materials carry equal weight in indicating her message: “The themes are what drive the choices I make in construction and materials. Experiments keep my work fresh and interesting to me.”[6]

While she is best known for her contemporary quilt art, Schulze demonstrates an affinity for the collage technique throughout her body of work. Peter Frank (art critic) attributes this consistency to Schulze's dedication to “the ‘collage aesthetic’ that mirrors the disjunctive quality of modern life and seeks to determine coherence and harmony within such disjunction.”[16] Schulze’s relationship with collage predates her career, beginning in her childhood when Schulze would clip images from the Sears Roebuck catalog, adding these & other clippings to her “grab bag,” from which she could pull scraps to collage with.[15] Since then, Schulze has continued to amass a vibrant supply of ephemera, always with the intention to implement these fragments in her work.[15] Schulze prefers to create with what she has & what speaks to her in the moment,[17] a habit of improvisation that writer Sarah E. Tucker likens to that of a jazz musician.[18] Schulze, who finds inspiration in music (specifically jazz and blues genres), has earned the nickname “the Artist Who Dances.”[18]

As her career has evolved, Joan has introduced a variety of techniques into her art. The most prominent methods which Schulze has utilized in the creation of her art include dyeing fabric (1967–1987), photography and photocopy processes (since 1970); “painting, Xerox transfer, direct and glue transfer processes” (beginning in 1980) and digital technology (1990 to present).[19] Despite being an artist of many disciplines, photography is one of the most central elements in her work. For Schulze, her photographs can serve as means of inspiration, but more importantly these images are oftentimes transferred onto fabric or paper, becoming the work of art itself.[19]

While film, point and shoot, and phone cameras have all served Schulze, Schulze cites the photocopier as her “favorite and most important camera.”[20] Starting in the mid 90's, Schulze began to create line drawings in a new way, making photocopies of stitched organza and printing these manipulated images onto silk, leaving the artist with what she refers to as “toner drawings.”[19] In her quilting process, Schulze layers the silk overtop batting and backing, and finishes by adding stitched lines that give depth to her pieces.[19]

Themes and inspiration[edit]

Schulze refers to her Haiku Series (1999–2001)[12] as a group of “visual poems,” with compositions using both fabric and paper. After years of producing quilts of large proportion, this series of small-scale works reoriented her creative focus, reminding her of “the power of limited means and focused attention.”[21]

Schulze's work is oftentimes informed by her global perspective, which has been shaped by her extensive travels as part of her career.[2] Schulze's Bowl Series (2016–2017),[15] can be offered as an example of how her work illustrates the impressions that places leave on her rather than depicting the place itself.[22] After exhibiting and teaching at Shenzhen University in China in 2016, Schulze was gifted a tea bowl from the Tang dynasty as an expression of gratitude from the museum's director, Wu Fan.[15] Schulze created this series to pay homage to this object and the culture it comes from.[23]

One of Schulze's most recent series, Brain Tangles, is a reflection on the loss of her late husband.[6] As her husband's health made its progressive decline, Schulze found herself photographing a small jardiniere of bulbs that would never come to flower. After her husband's death, Schulze drew the parallel between the diminishing life of her husband and the concurrent decay of the bulbs that did not bloom.[6]

Teaching and lectures[edit]

An integral component of Schulze's career as an artist has been to share “the skill she has developed in the pioneering spirit of quiltmaking.”[17] To impart her knowledge, Schulze has been a conference and symposium keynote speaker at international institutions, and has played the role of visiting artist, artist-in-residence, cultural specialist, & juror.

Schulze began to teach and lecture as an artist starting in 1970, yet stepped away from teaching in 2013 after over 40 years.[11] Schulze has taught classes and workshops in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom.[4] Schulze started her practice of teaching with workshops, originally occurring as local affairs.[9] As her career and technique evolved, so did the material she taught her students. In her workshops, Schulze has covered a number of topics, including collage, fiber art technique, quiltmaking, alternative printing, fan design & construction, and book assembly.[19]

Selected awards and recognition[edit]

In 2017, Schulze was named the recipient of the Fresno Art Museum Council of 100 “Distinguished Woman Artist Award” of 2017.[1] Schulze was the first quilt artist to be named.[6]

Schulze has received recognition from the California State Fair Fine Art Exhibitions (Silver Award); the Rochester Institute of Technology, “The Art Quilt” (Best of Show Award); Quilt National ‘95 (Innovation Award); the Bay Area Art Conservation Guild Annual (Gold Award); the Tokyo International Forum, World Quilt '98 (Gold Award); the Skylark Fine Art Gallery, 2009 (Publishing and Exhibition Prize). Schulze has also been honored with Purchase Awards from the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and the City of Palo Alto, California.

Selected works[edit]

Selected quilts (1979—2018)[edit]

  • California II, 1979, 96 x 96”[24]
  • No Sky in Manhattan, 1986, 90 x 79”[25]
  • Tea Time at the Cloud Hotel, 1991, 78 x 73”[26]
  • An American in Rotterdam, 1992, 70 x 52”[27]
  • Finding the Golden Edges, 1994, 56 x 57.5”[28]
  • Objects of Desire I, 1997, 44 x 38”[29]
  • Red Letter Day (Scroll), 1998, 15.5 x 61”[30]
  • Gateway Scrolls (Scroll), 1999, 72 x 24”, 96 x 24”, 120 x 24”[31]
  • Fast... Faster..., 2001, 48 x 81”[32]
  • Angel Drawings, 2003, 48 x 44”[33]
  • Frameworks B, 2004, 14.5 x 18”[34]
  • Tranquility, 2005, 15 x 17”[35]
  • Water Lilies, 2006, 48 x 71”[36]
  • Butterfly Logic, 2006, 46 x 44”[37]
  • Promises, 2007, 44.25 x 54.5”[38]
  • Women in Black, 2008, 29 x 50”[39]
  • Visitors, 2009, 44 x 84”[40]
  • What We Miss, 2010, 34.5 x 44.5”[41]
  • Baring One’s Soul, 2013, 34.5 x 43.5”[42]
  • Seven Bowls, 2015, 15 x 17”[43]
  • Privileged Spaces, 2016, 42 x 52”[44]
  • Opus (Center), 2016, 94 x 134”[45]
  • The Unknowable Future, 2017, 48 x 64.5”[46]
  • Eye, 2018, 16.5 x 21”[47]


Selected solo and featured exhibitions[edit]

  • Tsinghua University Art Museum, Beijing, China, 2018[48]
  • Celebrating 80, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, California, 2017 - 2018[49]
  • Joan Schulze: Poetic License, Shenzhen University Art Gallery & Museum, Shenzhen, China, 2016[50]
  • Disappearing Conversations, Goodman 2 Art Building, San Francisco, California, 2015[51]
  • San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, Retrospective, San Jose, California, 2010[11]
  • iQuilt—iDraw, the original fiction of Joan Schulze, Ararat Regional Art Museum, Melbourne, Australia, 2007[52]
  • National Exhibition Centre, Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, England, 2005[53]
  • Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 2003[54]
  • Washington State University Art Museum, Pullman, Washington, 2001[52]
  • Joan Schulze: The New Haiku, One Hundred Collages, Andrea Schwartz Gallery, San Francisco, California, 2000[52]
  • Textilforum (The Danish Textile Museum), Herning, Denmark, 1999-2000[52]
  • Galerie Smend, Cologne, Germany, 1999[55]
  • Gayle Willson Gallery, Southampton, New York, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1999[55]
  • Smith Andersen Gallery, Palo Alto, California, 1993[55]

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

  • Quilt National, Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, Ohio, 2021, 2019, 2017, 2013, 2009, 2003[56]
  • International Fiber Art Biennale (Catalog & Juror), Tsinghua University Art Museum; Shenzhen Art Museum; Nantong, Jiangsu Province; Henan Art Museum, Suzhou University Art Museum, Shanghai Exhibition Hall, PR China, 2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004[48]
  • International Fiber Arts (IX; VII), Sebastopol Center for the Arts, California, 2019, 2016[57]
  • 4th Riga International Textiles & Fibre Triennial: TRADITION & INNOVATION, Museum of Decorative Arts & Design, Riga, Latvia, 2010[57]
  • 12 Voices, Dennos Museum Center, Michigan, 2009[58]
  • Connecting Cultures and Colors, First Kyrgyz-American Quilt Exhibit, United States Embassy (Catalog), Kyrgyz Republic, 2006[52]
  • Biennale Internazionale Dell’ARTE Contemporanea, Fortezza da Basso (Catalog), Florence, Italy, 2005[59]
  • SAMPLE Exhibition (Catalog; Traveling through 2004 to: Williamson Art Gallery; Dutch Textile Museum; Hall Place, Kent), United Kingdom & Netherlands, 2003[52]


Selected museums[edit]

Selected corporate[edit]


  • Schulze, Joan. Celebrating 80. Schulze Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-9744196-4-0
  • Schulze, Joan. In-Between: Poems. Schulze Press, 2018. ISBN 978-0-9744196-5-7
  • Schulze, Joan, and Janet De Boer. iQULIT - iDRAW: The Original Fiction of Joan Schulze (Catalogue). Ararat Regional Art Gallery, 2007.
  • Schulze, Joan. Leftover Traces of Yesterday. Postcard Press, 1990.
  • Schulze, Joan. Poetic License: The Art of Joan Schulze. Chinese translation by Teresa Huang, Schulze Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9744196-3-3 (paperback edition); ISBN 978-0-9744196-2-6 (hardcover edition)
  • Schulze, Joan. Quilts. Schulze Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-9744196-1-9
  • Schulze, Joan. The Art of Joan Schulze. Custom & Limited Editions, 1999. ISBN 978-1-881529-44-6
  • Schulze, Joan. Winter of Loss. Schulze Press, 2020. ISBN 978-0-9744196-6-4


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  2. ^ a b Schulze, Joan; Howard, Constance (1999). The Art of Joan Schulze. Custom & Limited Editions. pp. 13, 16. ISBN 978-1-881529-44-6.
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  4. ^ a b Kamm, David. "Joan Schulze". Luther College Fine Arts Collection. LC Fine Arts Collection. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
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  9. ^ a b Smith Arney, Suzanne (Summer 2010). "Joan Schulze: Poetic License" (PDF). SAQA Journal. 20 (3): 16. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
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  14. ^ a b c Sider, Sandra (November 2001). ARTIST SURVEY 2001.
  15. ^ a b c d e Brockette, Ann (Summer 2017). "Disappearing Conversations: An Artist's Dialectic" (PDF). Fiber Art Now. 6 (4): 26–29. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
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  18. ^ a b Schulze, Joan; Tucker, Sarah E (2005). Quilts. Schulze Press. pp. 9, 10. ISBN 978-0-9744196-1-9.
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  21. ^ Schulze, Joan (1999). The Art of Joan Schulze. Custom & Limited Editions. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-881529-44-6.
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  23. ^ Sielman, Martha (2008). Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists. Lark Books. p. 110. ISBN 978-1600591075.
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  30. ^ Schulze, Joan (1999). The Art of Joan Schulze. Custom & Limited Editions. p. 134. ISBN 978-1-881529-44-6.
  31. ^ Schulze, Joan (1999). The Art of Joan Schulze. Custom & Limited Editions. pp. 137, 138. ISBN 978-1-881529-44-6.
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  42. ^ "Baring One's Soul Collage". Saatchi Art. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
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