I am unsure if I have ever had the pleasure to meet an artist who is so perfectly represented by their art than my meeting with Ann Harwell. You meet Ann and she is the personification of sweetness and humility. Similarly, when you hear that she is a fiber artist who produces quilts, the mistake might be to say, “how beautiful and comforting!”, and miss all of the depth and intelligence of her artistic practice.
Let me save you from making those mistakes. Ann Harwell is definitely a kind and proud mother AND has a deep well of curiosity and ingenuity. Do not underestimate this Creative, who looks to sacred geometry for inspiration and builds her quilts like a city planner designs the roads that take you places – decisively and precisely.
So how did this amazing woman start? She was taught by her mother to sew, but the first quilt that she designed was made as she was expecting her first child. A traditional motif of a clothesline with baby clothes hanging on a beautiful day and a little bird watching on would keep her little one company for years and years. I don’t think that Ann or anyone else could have predicted what would follow that first sweet quilt. Imagine getting prepared for a big life change. And then imagine that that preparation would lead to unimaginable opportunities. That is just how her amazing career began.
Being good at geometry and later being able to see math in her art lead her to a devotion to fiber art and a fixation with how perfectly nature is created. Ann’s fascination with the Universe and the miracles found in the natural world are the subjects of her quilts. Topics of extinction, creation, growth, and evolution are represented in vivid colors and prints that dazzle the eyes. She starts with an initial sketch that develops into a precise line drawing, that is then transferred to a pattern.
Currently, Ann Harwell follows the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” daily from the NASA.gov website and gets downright giddy when describing the images that are coming from the James Webb telescope. So whether she is crafting an image of a nebula or a narcissus, she is doing it with the research of a scientist and sharing it with a cubist perspective.
She is enjoying a 40-year career in which Ann’s quilts have won Best In Show in acclaimed competitions all over the nation. Right now she is competing in ArtFields with hopes of winning the $50,000 Grand Prize, has quilts for sale at the NC Museum of Art, and showing in galleries in North Carolina.
As someone who works in STEM and with school-age students, I find that Ann’s ability to broach the challenging themes and concepts of global warming, pollution, and extinction using the unassuming medium of quilts makes children and adults, alike, take a bit more time and lean in to learn more. Ann confessed that in the beginning, “I didn’t know that math could be a picture.” Well from her discovery, she is teaching all of us.