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Art People: Amy Johnquest | Banner Queen

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A sports assignment is on my schedule almost every day. I follow every play, as best I can, hoping for exciting peak action, important plays, reactions, key moments. It's all highly unpredictable; getting a good shot is hit and miss. This is an example of a picture I feel unhappy with as a sports picture, but happy with for this column. It isn't clear at all what the players are doing, but their ballet-like, synchronous limbs coupled with the angles of the LeFrak Gymnasium architecture make it a hit for me.<br/> JERREY ROBERTS

    A sports assignment is on my schedule almost every day. I follow every play, as best I can, hoping for exciting peak action, important plays, reactions, key moments. It's all highly unpredictable; getting a good shot is hit and miss. This is an example of a picture I feel unhappy with as a sports picture, but happy with for this column. It isn't clear at all what the players are doing, but their ballet-like, synchronous limbs coupled with the angles of the LeFrak Gymnasium architecture make it a hit for me.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Detail of painting by Amy Johnquest at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Amy Johnquest with one of her paintings at Fresh Pasta in Northampton Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • A sports assignment is on my schedule almost every day. I follow every play, as best I can, hoping for exciting peak action, important plays, reactions, key moments. It's all highly unpredictable; getting a good shot is hit and miss. This is an example of a picture I feel unhappy with as a sports picture, but happy with for this column. It isn't clear at all what the players are doing, but their ballet-like, synchronous limbs coupled with the angles of the LeFrak Gymnasium architecture make it a hit for me.<br/> JERREY ROBERTS

One day years ago, Amy Johnquest was rummaging around in a funky shop in Indian Orchard that sold end rolls of papers and fabrics, along with other factory castoffs. She found a big bolt of mesh-like bookbinding material, and was hooked.

“It was dreamy,” says Johnquest, an artist who paints on fabric and likens her passion for creation to being in love. Johnquest used one piece of the brown fabric after another to make art — including the banner she painted that was hanging next to her at Viva Fresh Pasta in Northampton.

Painted in vibrant colors, the banner shows a dark-haired man in a deep-green jacket. With a fork in each hand, he’s about to tuck into a plate of pasta.

“He’s just a made-up character who’s a little puzzled about how he’s going to eat all this spaghetti,” Johnquest explained. The text reads: “Enjoy Your Pasta Fresh,” with the word “fresh” looking big, bright and bold. “I like that word,” she said. “I wanted it splashing out there.”

Johnquest, 54, created her first banners in 1999 as window art for Downtown Sounds on Pleasant Street; she painted the pasta banner in 2001. Since then, she has done many others, most of which hang in private homes and were done on commission.

“I love the way fabric takes the paint and the washes,” she said. The materials she uses these days include old embroidered tablecloths she finds at tag sales. She always takes a minute to give a “mental hat’s off,” she said, to the anonymous seamstress whose stitching she is about to cover with paint. “I like to feel I’m giving it another life.”

Though she often works from a small sketch, Johnquest is open to change. “The piece always tells me where to go with it,” she said.

Johnquest grew up in Ohio. “Both my parents were art lovers and closet bohemians,” she said. “I started drawing as soon as my mom could get crayons in my hands.”

She also grew up with a love of horses, cowgirls and county fairs — a mix that paved the way for her banner art. Her work, she says, is her version of the banners that, back in the day, drew spectators to carnival sideshows where the world’s strongest man or bravest fire-eater regaled the crowd. Every sideshow had a name, Johnquest says, and she has followed suit: As her website proclaims, she is the Banner Queen.

Johnquest lives in Holyoke, where she is director of the Taber Gallery at Holyoke Community College and an enthusiastic booster of the city’s nascent arts community. Holyoke today, she says, “is smart and raw and real, and it’s at that gritty embryonic stage where everything is new.”

Next up for the Banner Queen is a multi-city exhibit in April of artists working in nontraditional formats; Johnquest’s contribution will be at Eastworks in Easthampton.

In the meantime, she notes that the man in the green jacket remains on view on Main Street.

“You know, when people ask, ‘Do you have any work up?’ I can always say, look in the front window of Viva Fresh Pasta.”

— Suzanne Wilson

Legacy Comments1

Thanks for this one, Suzanne. Interesting to know the story (and meet the artist) behind the notable sign at Fresh Pasta.

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