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Art People: Susan Boss

  • Susan Boss<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Susan Boss<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Susan Boss<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Susan Boss<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Susan Boss calls her wall hangings “contemporary samplers.” To be sure, there’s one with a classic message — Home Sweet Home — but consider some of the others: OMG; LOL; Like; Ask Me If I Care; Because I Said So.

“This is their prom, their debut,” said Boss, 60, an Easthampton quilt maker. Many of the pieces now on view at the ECA+ Gallery were made within the past year, and this is their first foray into the wider world.

But the fabrics she used go way back. “All of this wild stuff had sunk to the bottom” of her storage boxes, Boss said. “I discovered a lot of idiosyncratic fabric.” In one box, she found the remains of a shirt with a leaf pattern on the sleeves that had been made for her husband, artist Mark Brown; she gave the material new life as the border of a sampler that reads: Live and Let Live.

The pieces hang in a gallery with white walls and, on a sunny day, lots of natural light. It’s a good setting in which to appreciate the rich colors Boss chooses. “I like colors that announce themselves,” she said.

Boss started making one-of-a-kind quilts 40-some years ago. Throughout her career, she’s been influenced by African-American quilt-making traditions, she said, with their “fearless” use of color and bold designs.

In choosing the sayings for her samplers, Boss says, she tried to avoid the trite and predictable. She likes humor, but not meanness. “I’m in general a pretty positive individual,” she said

Asked about the sampler that asks the iconic question — What Were You Thinking? — Boss told a story about her son, Dylan, now 38, who once announced that he’d decided to move to California. When was he planning to do that? she asked. “On Wednesday,” he replied.

Another sampler reads, At The End of My Rope. The phrase is one her mother used — with good reason, said Boss, who was the first of her mother’s 10 children.

One of the larger pieces shows a bird perched in a tree. The words around the border read: Keep a Green Tree In Your Heart and Some Day the Singing Bird Will Come. It’s a slightly modified Chinese proverb, she said, that she’d come across long ago and tacked up on a wall in her studio.

“I thought about it for years. Finally, “it needed to just be done, and I needed to let it go,” she said. A finished piece, she says, takes on “its own life.”

More samplers are likely coming. “I’ve still got so much wild fabric,” Boss said. There’s the turquoise material with black lightning bolts, the red fabric with glow-in-the-dark lips. She’s not sure what her samplers will say, she said, only that “I’m not doing it if it’s not fun.”

— Suzanne Wilson

“Quilts and Quotes” is on view at the Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery, 43 Main St., through Feb. 26. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, and Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m.

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