”They’re just thinking of grandma’s quilt on a bed,” she said. “I guess it’s just because most quilts are functional. Most quilters stay in the quilt world and don’t go into the art world. I find sometimes I’m the only textile piece entered into a show.”
For the past three years, Loveless has entered quilts in ArtPrize, the annual international art contest that blankets Grand Rapids with works of art and gives away $560,000 in cash prizes. Many of the prizes given away during the contest are decided, but the biggest award comes from public voting.
This year, Loveless’ quilt “Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore” grabbed public attention and enough of the 446,000 votes cast during the event to take home the top prize.
”I’m like the quilter’s hero now,” she said. “People are looking at quilts differently — as a piece of art.”
Last year, Loveless’ entry, a 13-foot wide quilt depicting a wooded landscape, landed in the top 25 out of more than 1,400 entries.
This year she decided to go big.
She began planning her entry early in the year. The project maxed out her tools and the capacity of the van she uses to transport her artwork.
In all, the five panels of quilt measured 20 feet wide and five feet tall. It took 400 hours to complete during work sessions spread over five months.
The win helped turn a couple of negatives into positives, she said.
It confirmed that she made the right choice when she walked away from working with clothing to save her hands. And it confirmed that quilts can be art, just like painting or sculpting.
Sure Loveless still faces plenty of critics who don’t respect quilting for what it is like the one who “said my piece was too pretty,” she said.