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“Weaving A New World,” an exhibit of works by weaver, quiltmaker, and artist Ed Johnetta Miller, will be on display at the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center from Feb. 2-March 2 as part of Lafayette’s celebration of Black History Month. The exhibit is curated by Deborah Rabinsky of Easton’s De Arte Magick Galleria.

The Black Cultural Center is open on weekdays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.

This year’s Black History Month artist-in-residence at Lafayette, Miller will discuss her work in a free public talk at noon Friday, Feb. 23, in the Williams Center for the Arts. The event is sponsored by the Chaplain’s Office and the Office of Intercultural Development.

Miller was introduced to weaving and quiltmaking by watching her aunt create elaborate, yet functional works of art. She went on to develop various skills that allow her to join together fabrics of common and exotic textures and bright colors, some of which she brought back from her travels to Africa to work directly with weavers and fabric artists. Many of her quilts and wearable fabric pieces have been inspired by African textiles, including the ritual banner, the royal Kinte Cloth, and the Andinkra funerary cloth. She maintains two studios in her Hartford, Conn., home.

“Her approach is one of improvisation, much like the idiosyncratic riffs played in the jazz music she listens to while working,” says Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute. “She gradually moves from one piece to another, placing a color here, a color there. She arranges pieces of brightly colored fabrics with those that are textured and patterned with ancient and exotic symbols into a dynamic composition in a cadence with her favorite musicians, like Jackie Mclean, a friend and fellow Hartford resident. Her exceptional ability to bring into harmony her personal spiritual philosophy, and a culturally relevant art form and a communal approach to her creativity, has helped gain her an international and multi-generational following.”

Last year, Miller’s quilt “Lighting the Flame” was displayed in a distinctive exhibition called Women of Taste: A Collaboration Celebrating Quilt Artists and Chefs at the Oakland Museum of California March 4 to July 23, 2000. The project paired a group of the country’s most accomplished quilt artists with renowned women chefs to design quilts reflecting their mutual explorations of food and creativity. Each chef-quilter pair discussed creativity, aesthetics, careers, food and food-related issues such as the environment, agriculture and health. The essence of these dialogues was incorporated into 50 unique quilts relating directly or indirectly to the preparation, offering and celebration of food. Miller collaborated with chef Sherrie Maurer.

Her art also was represented in Convergence 2000, a biennial international conference for work in fiber held at the Dr. Albert B. Sabin Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Miller’s work has been shown at other major cultural institutions, including the Smithsonian in Wash., D.C.; the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn.; and museums in St. Paul, Minn., and Logan, Kan.

Miller has organized quilting parties and weaving classes at the places where she has traveled. She has taught senior citizens, children, and celebrities, including Phylicia Rashad of “The Cosby Show.” She has served as executive director of Opus, Arts & the Aging, a non-profit organization promoting arts experiences for the elderly in hospitals, senior and rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. As a visiting artist for The Greater Hartford Arts Council and a master teaching artist for the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Miller worked with students from K-12 grade.

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