Gerri Spilka

Gerri Spilka

    Gallery

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    Artist's Biography

    Gerri Spilka’s award winning work has been exhibited in numerous art and textile shows in Europe, Canada, and the US. Trained in this order, as an artist, social scientist, and architect and urban planner, not surprisingly, Spilka’s fabric work continues to investigate themes grounded in these ways of knowing the world. The interactions and ambiguities of personal identity and place, human-made and biological forms expressed through two dimensional shapes, negative spaces, lines, colors, and subtle texture underpin all of her work.

    She has been making fabric and dye painted constructions for over ten years. The quick mediums of digital and paper collage simultaneously also allow her to work through ideas quickly, which in turn inform her fabric construction work. In the last three years, Spilka has also played a role in expanding the visibility of high quality textile art by leading an expanded dissemination of four textile exhibitions curated by Nancy Crow more broadly through North America.

    Spilka became a full time studio artist after a rich career advising some of the most inspiring people leading social change throughout the US. She was a founding president of Equal Measure, a strategy and evaluation firm based in Philadelphia which has a foundation and non-profit practice across the US. While leading a 30-person organization, her equity-focused portfolio was largely in arts and culture institutional advancement, urban revitalization and community development, and education. The Ford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts were among her clients.

    Spilka studied with Nancy Crow, legendary quilt artist; has an undergraduate degree in Art and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University, a master’s degree in Psychology from Temple University; and an M. Architecture and Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. She has a studio and lives with her family in the Italian Market area of Philadelphia, PA.

    Artist's Statement

    We all travel through cities, inhabit communities and are influenced by their character—a combination of climate, geography, history, economies, the built and natural environment, and ultimately culture. However, this relationship is not one way. With a long view, one comes to understand that people have an interactive dynamic connection with place: we are shaped by the communities we inhabit while also simultaneously contributing to the creation of place, zeitgeist and character ourselves.

    This phenomenon has been noted by many. An aspect, known as “habitus" was likely introduced by Aristotle. The Greeks defined “habitus" as a system of embodied dispositions, tendencies that organize the ways in which individuals perceive the social world around them and react to it. In more recent times, this notion has been rounded out by the influence of place in social identity. Introduced by environmental and social psychologists, “place identity” is a part of a person’s self-identity, and consists of knowledge and feelings developed through everyday experiences of physical spaces. The place identity of a person can inform their experiences, behaviors, and attitudes about other places. In a related vein, “place attachment” defines the ways in which people connect to various places, and the effects of the powerful bonds in identity development, place-making, perception, and practice. All three of these concepts help us to understand where and why people feel at home, as well as why displacement—forced or voluntary—can be so traumatic for individuals and groups.

    In my daily life, place allows my memories,experiences to make sense in complex ways. My interaction with the urban landscapes of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or NYC, intertwine my sense of place and the politics of space. Traveled rural landscapes of Appalachia, coastal zones, and midwestern farms, also figure into identity and the politics of place. In all these communities, I see how some place identities have been privileged in narratives while others hidden or denied. When all places and identities are uncovered and celebrated as part of the whole, a rich complex, authentic place exists for all to create experiences and memories.

    As I think about place, city, community, identify, I believe that Jane Jacobs in “The Death and Life of great American Cities” perhaps captured my belief most succinctly: “Cities are for all people; and in fact, they are created by all people.”

    The understanding of identity and place—the landform and geography, the character, the color, the tone, and the broad range of all peoples and their agency have been and remain common thread concerns for me, and present in all my life’s work. Most notably, I am fascinated by their inevitable and often ambiguous interactions.

    Today as an artist, I explore place and identity through the representation of landform and people. At times they are ambiguously the same/shifting forms; at times each stands alone as either land or people on fire, in trouble, asking, marching, or feigning indifference. My figures also stand together in groups, conversing, sharing, playing music, or rebuffing the other.

    My work is consistently large scale, bold, yet simple and direct with strong, large figures interacting often with an equally strong ground. I love color and use it confidently, powerfully, and often playfully. Fabric-pieced and dye painting constructions are my medium of choice. Clothed and housed in fabric is common to us all. Scale is important, as the consistently large pieces allow the viewer to be in or next to the work, provoking a visceral curiosity about who this may be? where? as well as realizations that you are somewhat like me.

    Selected Exhibitions

    Solo
    2016
    World of Threads Festival, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

    Two Person
    2018
    Dolores Poacelli and Gerri Spilka: Pieces, 990 Spring Garden, Philadelphia, PA

    Group
    2018
    Art Quilt Elements, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    2017 - 2018
    International Craft Forms 2017, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Fine Contemporary Craft, Artspace, Raleigh, NC

    Quilt=Art=Quilts 2017, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Quilt National 2017, The Dairy Barn, Athens, OH
    Traveling Exhibition

    2017
    Juried Regional Exhibition, Chris White Gallery,Wilmington, DE

    Excellence in Fibers Online Gallery, Surface Design Association

    Global Murmurs, Experience Fiber Art, Inc., Rochester, NY

    Mastery: Sustaining Momentum, Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, England; European Patchwork Meeting, Sainte-Marie-Aux-Mines, France, Traveling Exhibition

    Fiber Arts VIII, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA

    Viewpoints 2017: Studio Montclair, aljira-a Center for Contemporary Art, Newark,
    NJ

    Pattern Recognition, Woskob Family Gallery, College of Arts and Architecture, Penn
    State University, State College, PA

    Juried Members’ Show, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA

    2016
    International Craft Forms 2016, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Quilt=Art=Quilts 2016, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Transgressing Traditions, Surface Design Association and Schweinfurth Art Center,
    Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    MASTERY: SUSTAINING MOMENTUM, The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, OH
    Curator: Nancy Crow

    Color Improvisations 2, Tuch+Technik Textile Museum, Neumünster, Germany

    Fiberart International, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA

    2015
    21st International Craft Forms Show, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Quilts=Art=Quilts 2015, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Velocity of Textiles, Chattahoochee Weavers Guild, Ernest G Welch School of Art
    and Design, GA State University, Atlanta, GA

    CHROMA, Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA

    Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival’s Juried Visual Art Exhibition, Pittsburgh, PA

    2014
    SPUN: Innovations in Fiber Art, Etui Fiber Arts, Larchmont, NY

    New Sights 2014, THREE NINETEEN, Philadelphia, PA
    Jurors: Sarah McEneaney and Zoe Strauss

    Art Quilt Elements 2014, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2014, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA
    Third Prize Crafts

    2013
    Quilts=Art=Quilts, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Structures, Arc Gallery, San Francisco, CA

    Contemporary Expressionism: The Creative Spirit, San Diego Museum of Art Lyceum
    Gallery, San Diego, CA

    Form Not Function, Carnegie Center for Art and History, New Albany, IN

    Perspectives: Fantasy and Real, Road to California, Ontario, CA

    Publications

    Artwork represented in:
    Catalog, Regional Juried Show, Chris White Gallery, 2017

    Contemporary Abstract and Geometric Quilts, Studio Art Quilt Association, 2017

    Catalog, Quilt National 2017, The Dairy Barn, 2017

    Catalog, Mastery: Sustaining Momentum, The Dairy Barn, 2016

    Catalog, Color Improvisations 2, Tuch and Technik Museum, Germany, 2016

    Sider, Sandra 1000 Quilt Inspirations, Quarry Books, 2015

    Catalog, Form Not Function, 2013

    Primary Author
    Increasing Momentum for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy: Final Evaluation, National D5 Coalition, 2016

    “The Makings of a Movement? Strategic Issues and Themes in Communications Policy Work,” with Lisa Nutter, OMG Center, for the Ford Foundation, March 2004

    Old Cities/Green Cities: A Guide to Reclaiming Abandoned and Unmanaged Land,
    with Blaine Bonham, and Darl Rastorfer, American Planning Association, 2002

    Design as a Catalyst for Learning, Association of Supervision and Curriculum
    Development, 2000
    Outstanding Academic Book Award in 2000 from the Association of College and Research Libraries

    Understanding the Contribution of the Arts to Excellent Education, The National
    Endowment for the Arts, 1991

    Professional Experience

    2014-present
    Full time Studio Artist, Independent consultant

    2015-present
    Textiles as Art, Producing partnership for promotion and curation of excellent textile art exhibits in North America

    1983-2013
    Founding Director and President, the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning/Equal Measure, a national urban planning and community development

    1972-1978
    Family Therapist, Eagleville Hospital and Therapeutic Community, Eagleville, PA

    Awards and Honors

    2017
    Second Prize, Biennale Fine Contemporary Crafts, Artspace, Raleigh, NC

    Honorable Mention, Craft Forms 2017, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Shirley Hastedt Award for Excellence, Quilt=Art=Quilts, Schweinfurth Arts Center

    Jurors’ Award, Quilt National, The Dairy Barn, Athens, OH

    Professional Development Award, Surface Design Association

    2016
    Award of Merit, Craft Forms 2016, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    Third Prize, Transgressing Traditions, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn NY

    2015
    Award for Design Excellence, Quilts=Art=Quilts, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Award of Merit, Craft Forms Show, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

    2014
    Third Prize Crafts, Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2014, The State Museum of
    Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA

    2013
    Award for Design Excellence, Quilts=Art=Quilts, Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, NY

    Education

    1983
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
    M. Arch. and Planning

    1973
    Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
    MA, Community Health

    1972
    Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
    BA, Psychology and Education

    Continuing Education
    2014-2017
    Hand dying and surface design, Carol Soderlund, Claire Benn

    2015
    Etching, Cindi Ettinger Studio, Philadelphia, PA

    2008-2016
    Principles of Art Quilt Design, Nancy Crow, Baltimore, OH