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Master Makers: 

Jane Burch Cochran

January 18 - March 3, 2001

Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 17, 2001

5:00 - 7:30 PM


Fiber artist Jane Burch Cochran at work 


(above) Life Line, 1998 (detail)


(above) Letting Go, 2000 (detail)



(above) Lost Childhood, 1996 (detail)


The exhibition will be on display in the Shands Gallery, 609 W. Main Street, January 18 through March 3, 2001. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The exhibition is part of the "Master Makers" series on mature Kentucky artists presented annually by the gallery.

To learn more about Kentucky artists, click here.

By Julie C. Ball

November 2000

Kentucky fiber artist Jane Burch Cochran brandishes a needle like a magic wand, transforming slivers of cloth into fragments of light. Her distinctive art quilts are laden with intricate patterns of buttons, beads and brush strokes, teeming with color and power, and filled with compelling representations of our collective everyday lives.

A full-time artist for more than 20 years, Cochran lives with her husband, Randy, and a collection of dogs and cats in a log cabin in Rabbit Hash, KY, pop. 200. Her Southern voice and congenial manner evoke images of a long-lost ladiesí quilting circle. Although she collects traditional quilts, and has even sewn a few herself, Cochran has made her name with art quilts: true visual delights that were never created to cover a bed.

Cochranís works in fabric draw from her experience as a painter and jewelry maker. "In my art quilts, I try to combine my background in painting, my love of fabric and the tradition of American quilting," says Cochran. "I unconsciously combine the loose, free feeling of abstract painting with the time-consuming and controlled techniques of sewing and beading. Although my work has its roots in Victorian crazy quilts and Native American beadwork, the nostalgia is set off by my interpretations as an artist living today.

"I continue to use common symbols and quilt patterns and to recycle materials to create a new narrative. My quilts are highly embellished with beads, buttons, and paint to enhance the narrative with a unique and personal texture."

Allusions to family legends blend with Cochranís interpretations of modern society: her quilts are storytellers. She enjoys recycling materials from other generations, such as vintage neckties, discarded gloves and buttons, war patches and remnants of antique beaded dresses. The inclusion of these everyday articles balances the intensity of the chaotic patchwork. Locked within the twinkling patches, images of everyday life become potent symbols.

The format of the quilt, with its capacity to assimilate diverse elements, serves Cochran well as a means of combining many influences. Her belief that the more personal an artistís work is, the more it has to say, underlies all she does. Her quilts convey subtle messages, feelings, moments in time.

Cochranís intricately-stitched narrative quilts are time consuming and labor intensive. Every bugle bead and applique is painstakingly sewn by hand. Each large quilt can be up to seven feet long and take some three months to complete. "I strive to give my pieces the form and composition you look for in art, but still keep my work within the craftsmanship of the quilt," says Cochran.

Born in Louisville, Cochran grew up in the Northeast, where her father worked for the Ford Motor Company. When it came time for college, Cochran attended Centre College in Danville, where she majored in mathematics and art. Then, she attended the Cincinnati Art Academy, though her dream was the ĎBig Apple.í "I wanted to be an artist and go to New York, but Cincinnati was as far as I made it," Cochran recalls. During the 1970s she owned a costume jewelry business and acquired an affinity for beads, which led her into small fiber collages.

"I use strip piecing to make my patchwork," says Cochran. "I do not measure (the fabric); I just start cutting and sewing strips, usually in combinations of three strips. I then cut these apart into smaller pieces and just keep sewing and adding until it grows into large enough patches to use. I love to create the patchwork; itís like making lots of small paintings."

Cochran has kept a few of her small, early pieces, but most of her large quilts are either in shows or on other peopleís walls. She doesnít mind: "My quilt For All Our Grandmothers had a paint brush and a hospital service pin that belonged to my two grandmothers, and I could have taken them off. But a woman bought it to hang outside her daughterís bedroom, and it made me feel good that this little girl would grow up with a piece of art."

"My goal would be to have my work last over time, to be sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, sometimes very simple and sometimes profound and universal."