Artist Statement


I have always been drawn to ancient stones, and their landscapes. My great grandmother came to the U.S. from Ireland in 1888, and my initial visit to Ireland in 1991 affirmed a deep connection with both rural Irish landscapes and their many nearly forgotten stones and ruins.

It was while planning a second visit to Ireland that I first saw a picture of the Piper Stones, a stone circle in Co. Wicklow, that sent shivers through me. I immediately sought them out when I returned. These stones – and later, many others, in many different locations – “talk to me”, and I’ve focused ever since on finding new stones and using my art to convey the essence of these continuing communications. I have since come to similarly revere more recent monastic ruins (especially portals).

Hugging a Piper Stone (2016)

My quilts often invoke strong feelings and emotions in observers; several of my quilts have been purchased as meditation tools, as catalysts for focusing and healing. They seem to make visible and tangible universal (though oftentimes forgotten or diminished) themes: belonging and permanence, continuance, stability, and the enduring importance of family and clan.

I use a wide variety of colors, fabrics, threads, and yarns in my work. I hand paint all my own fabric and then work the same way as a stone mason, individually sizing and cutting out, piecing, and appliquéing each stone, one by one, working from the bottom up. Each stone, no matter how dominant or (seemingly) inconsequential, is unique and individual in its own right, each contributing to the greater composition, and each a foundation for the other stones that it supports or neighbors.

Denise Working on Wall

The realistic appearance and textures of
my stones is achieved by hand painting (using multiple layers of sun-reactive transparent Seta color paints and – optionally – various resists) in combination with aggressively folding, wrapping, and/or bunching the fabric while still wet; while drying, sand, salt, sugar, dirt, etc., is also applied as appropriate. Each stone is then individually cut out of these quilt and palette-specific custom fabrics.

In contrast to the realism of the stones, skies and landscapes – which are central to the context of place and the timelessness of these sacred sites – are far more abstract. I use a relatively unique stripping technique for my landscapes (and, often, my skies), integrating thin horizontal pieces of (my hand painted) fabric, trims, and twisted yarns into a story-telling abstract of colors and textures.

Completed fabric tops are then heavily machine stitched to add even more texture and shadowing.