Antieau Gallery: Not Your Grandmother’s Quilts


Chris Roberts-Antieau, Snowglobes, (left) Dad on a Hill, (right) The Murder of Sherry Green, photos courtesy Antieau Gallery

Like many young women, Chris Roberts-Antieau first learned to sew in seventh-grade home economics class. “I’ve always been drawn to fabric,” said the artist, who recently opened a pop-up gallery on North Summer Street in Edgartown. Ms. Roberts-Antieau first tried to channel her creative impulses into fabric by making clothing. “That was horrible,” she admits. “I burnt out on that pretty quickly.” One day, a friend recommended that she try framing some of her fabric-appliqué designs. The artist acquiesced, and a style was born.

Ms. Roberts-Antieau’s work toes the line between old-timey American folk art and bright, contemporary mixed media. “It’s basically an old quilting technique,” she said of her appliqué work. “It’s cut fabric sewn onto a fabric background. I sometimes do up to four or five layers.” She also uses machine embroidery, which she describes as “basically drawing with a sewing machine.” Her newest works involve “scribbling with different color thread, so you get sort of a painting effect.”

Some of Ms. Roberts-Antieau’s work is reminiscent of country quilts, like birds roosting in a tree among the stars. Other pieces tread into the depths of the weird, the dark, and the downright hilarious. The snowglobe collection, for instance, takes the beauty and innocence of a delicate child’s toy and inserts disastrous scenes of murders and chimpanzee attacks. “Even with the dark pieces, people laugh,” said the Antieau Gallery director Heidi Henrick. “They find the humor in either the absurdity or reality of it.” Many of the works are inspired by New Orleans, with a heavy reliance on bright colors, music, and human subjects.

“New Orleans is one of those places you sort of fall in love with; it’s one of the unique places in the world,” said Ms. Roberts-Antieau, a Michigan native, about the city where she lives part time. After peddling her work at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2010, she stumbled upon an opportunity for a pop-up store in the Big Easy. She has been showing there for the past four years.

Now Ms. Roberts-Antieau is repeating her pop-up experiment on the Vineyard. “The Island has a lot of the same properties as New Orleans,” the artist said. “It’s a great mix of people, it’s down to earth, it’s a very similar vibe, with its own flavor.”

Ms. Roberts-Antieau and Ms. Henrick plan on keeping the Martha’s Vineyard Antieau Gallery open through Columbus Day, showcasing art, as well as live music and spoken-word poetry readings throughout the summer. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Ms. Roberts-Antieau said. “We’re trying to bring a little of New Orleans to Martha’s Vineyard.”


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