I've known Leslee Nelson (pictured below) since we were in grad school together at UW-Madison in the mid-1970s. At the time, we were members of a four-person textile group who called ourselves "Fresh Produce;" we had a memorable fiber show at the main gallery in UW's Memorial Union. When my husband and I first met each other, we took it as a positive sign that we both owned pieces by Leslee (and time has proved us right!).
Though our career paths diverged, as fellow-Madisonians I've been able to maintain my friendship with Leslee and see her work in person at exhibits throughout her career. This past year I added two more pieces of Leslee's work to my collection when she retired from the UW and had a retrospective show and sale.
But she continues to make art and lately has been meeting with an informal group at the Lakeside Street Coffeehouse on Wednesday afternoons. Everyone has been working on their personal interpretation of Leslee's "memory cloths." Alnost ten years ago, Leslee saw an exhibit, "Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory," which included memory cloths from South Africa. These fabric creations had images from the makers' experience embroidered on them. With them were narrative paragraphs explaining the image.
She describes it as an "Aha!" moment. Since then she's been making her own version of embroidered stories, using her life as the catalyst.
This week I went to the opening of the exhibit of memory cloths by the group who's been meeting at the coffeehouse. It's a sweet, funny, funky and moving display with a wide variety of concepts and techniques and styles; all of them fitting nicely within the memory cloth concept. The show is up until May 11. The image below is by Bobbie Malone and features punchlines from her father's jokes, embroidered on a found quilt top.
The Memory Cloth Collective: Stitches in Time
"Meant To Be" Exhibit through May 11
Lakeside Street Coffeehouse
402 W. Lakeside St. Madison
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Leslee will present a lecture Finding Joy in Art Textiles and Travel as part of the Emeritus Lecture Series on Sunday, April 27, 2-3pm at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St, Madison, Wisconsin