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Textile artist Gloria Hazel weaves the joy of creation into her work featured in Liberty Station exhibit

Textile artist Gloria Hazel poses with some of her fabric dolls featured in "Expressive Liberations" at Liberty Station.
San Diego textile artist Gloria Hazel poses with some of her fabric dolls featured in “Expressive Liberations,” a collection of works from the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild on display at the Visions Art Museum at Liberty Station.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hazel’s quilts and fabric dolls are part of the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild’s exhibition at the Visions Art Museum.

There are a lot of things San Diego textile artist Gloria Hazel loves about quilting. She loves its stress-relieving powers. She loves how it reminds her of her South Carolina childhood and the grandmother who taught her how to sew. She really loves that her quilting skills allowed her to join the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild, which she had been wanting to do for years.

Some of Hazel’s quilts and fabric dolls are on display in the “Expressive Liberations” exhibit at the Visions Art Museum at Liberty Station in Point Loma. The exhibition — which runs through Oct. 3 — shows fabric art from the People of Color Quilt Guild and celebrates the artistic industriousness that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the long cultural history of African American quilting.

Hazel will talk about quilting, fabric art and her creative process during a “Meet the Artist” virtual event Tuesday, Sept. 14, sponsored by the museum.

What Hazel probably loves most about the art of quilting is not what it does for her but what it can do for anyone who wants to give it a try. And she is of the opinion that everyone should give it a try. The sooner, the better.

“It’s not hard,” said Hazel, who lives in Rancho Bernardo. “Most people think it’s hard, but it’s not. One of the things I love to do is teach kids how to put together a simple little four-patch or nine-patch quilt. When you learn something when you’re younger, it carries forward.

“I always think about what an impression the work I did with my grandmother made on me. I never thought anyone would call me an artist, but you never know. That little bit of knowledge might inspire someone to carry on this tradition, and who knows what they might create?”

“Anything you want to express, you can do through quilting,” said Hazel, 67, who has won multiple awards for her quilts and fabric dolls. “If I can think of it and put it on paper, I can put it on a quilt. During the pandemic, I concentrated on teaching myself new skills. That helped me get through it.”

During the pandemic, members of the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild did what they could to keep the group’s convivial spirit alive and their quilting skills sharp. They held their meetings outside with everyone wearing masks and practicing social distancing. They made baby quilts for the San Diego Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society’s layette program.

They also made quilted masks that were pieces of art, and made pieces of art that were therapeutic. Many of those creations are featured in the Visions exhibit.

Among them is Deborah Fitch’s “Collage Portrait of Deborah,” a self-portrait inspired by a class she and other guild members took with Los Angeles multimedia artist Kisasi Ramsess in March 2020, just before the lockdown. Ramsess gave Fitch the idea, and the pandemic gave her the time to transform a selfie into the quilt currently hanging in the Visions gallery.

De Shon Hall’s vivid “Afrocentric Display” quilt was inspired by some African women she saw in a YouTube video. “I can’t draw,” Hall said in her artistic statement. “But I decided to take a stab at it and put my own spin on it. This is another one of my ‘What if?’ experiments that was successful.”

Guild member Alahna Kellough created her “Ebony Strength” mask to coax herself out of lockdown depression. The mask — which features the colors of the Pan-African flag, an elephant and a lion, and the words “Fierce” and “Strong” — was Kellough’s reminder “to be courageous and unwavering during the time of uncertainty in our world.”

For Hazel’s “Kisses” quilt, she was inspired by a photo she snapped of her daughter blowing her a kiss during their last mother-daughter visit before the COVID lockdown.

Like other works featured in “Expressive Liberations,” “Kisses” is a fresh take on an ageless artform. It’s part of the circle of creative life, and Hazel said she hopes the Visions Art Museum exhibition will bring a new generation of creative, passionate artists into the fold.

“I love the fact that the guild is true to the traditional quilting, because we don’t want to lose that. People are saying this is a dying art, and we really don’t want that to happen,” Hazel said.

“That’s why being in this museum is so important. I hope people look at the work and say, ‘I want to try that, too.’ We need to get younger people to come in and see what they can create to keep it moving.”

‘Expressive Liberations’

Where: Visions Art Museum at Liberty Station, 2825 Dewey Road, Point Loma

When: Through Oct. 3. The museum’s free “Meet the Artist” virtual event with Gloria Hazel is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Information: visionsartmuseum.org


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