Image above: Denise Burge, Roan Mountain Matrix, 2001. Fabric, thread, 70″ x 84″ Courtesy of the artist
By Mary Wallace
Denise Burge constructs layers of intricate fabrics and felts, explosions of color, lines, and words into quilts that fluidly combine two worlds into one; the graphic nature of the urban city—influenced by her residence in Cincinnati, OH—and the traditional pastime of the American country where she grew up. She utilizes the fabrics to create sprawling, sometimes jumbled images that consume the attention of their viewers and draw them into the work.
Childhood memories, along with her love of nature and the Appalachian Mountains, inspired Burge to create these quilts, which tell stories through image as well as written word. Thinking of her work as a metaphor for the landscape, she “sees nature as a powerful being and [she] sees quilts as a geological structure.” Just as the American landscape is pieced together with various geological elements, her quilts are a collage of fabrics merged into one cohesive structure.
Roan Mountain Matrix (featured image) exemplifies her connection with the terrain of the Appalachian Mountains which run through Kentucky and several of its Eastern Border States. Roan Mountain is one of the highest summits in the Appalachian Mountain range and is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It also holds one of the largest iron ore deposits. Burge has been affected by the changing landscape due to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, a form of mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Read more about Mountaintop Removal HERE. She has said, “I’ve noticed how the land existed around the highway, changed by mountaintop removal. I was fascinated by the theater of the land and how we use the land; how the land fights back at what we do to it….fascinated by the theater of how we experience nature.” Roan Mountain Matrix is indicative of the area in which The 7 Borders exhibit encompasses.
When viewing the piece, the eye fixates on the invitingly colorful entrance to the interior of the dark patch-worked mountain. Bright colored yarn creates a cross section of elliptical layers representative of the earth’s structuring layers. The various fabrics, threads and words come together to create a commentary about the fate of this mountain and the want of the matrix it carries.
Denise Burge is an accomplished artist in many mediums, including recent work in photography and film, and has shown in galleries and museums all over the country. She attained both a BFA and MFA in Painting and Printmaking. Though born in North Carolina, she currently resides in Cincinnati, OH and is an Associate Professor and MFA Program Director at the University of Cincinnati.