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Artist Terrie Hancock Mangat

Author: Gussie Fauntleroy
Issue: January, 2014, Page 162

From designing and printing fabrics to creating Contemporary art quilts, Terrie Hancock Mangat produces vibrant works with layers of meaning

Quilt artist Terrie Hancock Mangat slides open a large shallow drawer in her Taos, New Mexico, studio and smiles. “This is my stash,” she announces. The drawer is filled with stacks of fabric cut in small squares, each representing a different pattern or design. It’s a multicolored source of infinite imagination, as is her studio. Shelves, drawers, baskets, bags, and piles of fabric and embellishments sit waiting to become part of her visually engaging works of art.

Internationally recognized as a pioneer in the use of embellishments in Contemporary quilts, Mangat has “an established reputation among art quilters as one of the most important embellishers working today,” writes Kate Bonansinga, director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Her complex compositions draw upon the power of pattern, have multiple focal points, are partially realistic and partially abstract, and are comprised of myriad materials and objects in addition to fabric.”

Raised in Cold Spring, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Mangat absorbed the rich cultures of both the Midwest and South. From the time of her earliest memories, she was fascinated by fabric and what could be done with it. At the age of 5, she asked her mother for an old sheet, drew designs on it with crayons, and then cut it and sewed clothes for her dolls. For Christmas the following year, Mangat got what she really wanted—half-yard cuts of cloth.

Water Quilt, 10'H x 8'W, is hand-quilted and boasts sheesha mirrors, chandelier and natural crystals, vintage glass beads, aquamarine, pearls, sequins, a rhinestone necklace, vintage mother-of-pearl buttons, acrylic paint, hand-stitched embroidery and sheer silk.
She became interested in quilting during her college years when a friend introduced her to a quilter, Mrs. Earl Clay, who used odd combinations of patterns and fabrics to make quilt tops. Mangat was hooked. With a summer job in the fabric section of a department store, she used all her earnings to buy remnants and began creating quilts. At the University of Kentucky she majored in printmaking and pottery, graduating in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in art.

Mangat’s early quilts were not embellished. Then, after visiting New Mexico and attending a ceremonial dance at a pueblo near Santa Fe, she created Deer Dancers of San Ildefonso (1983), depicting dancers at sunrise coming down from the hills. She stitched porcupine quills into the dancers’ headdresses, added embroidery, and sensing the piece needed something more, sewed in sequins.

Since then, the 64-year-old artist has continuously increased her use of adornments, sewing on buttons, pearls, beads, sequins, shells, crystals, tiny mirrors, and satin thread, and even employing paint. As a fabric designer who has silk-screened her own designs and sold them to commercial fabric houses, she incorporates many of these in her quilts. Within already intricate compositions, her bright designs add to the richness of color, texture and visual rhythm as these elements sparkle, shimmer and catch light.

In the diptych New Mexico Rain, for example, water is given a glistening quality with seed beads, real pearls, faceted quartz, vintage crystal rhinestones, tiny aquamarine stones and an overlay of crimped silk. Other New Mexico-inspired quilts reflect aspects of the Southwest’s Native American and Latino/Catholic cultures, as well as personal associations with rocks and sticks from the artist’s frequent hikes in the mountains near Taos, where she has lived since 1998. She finds herself inspired by everything from travels in Europe, Africa and India, to childhood memories of Fourth of July fireworks launched from a boat in the middle of the Ohio River.

New Mexico Rain, 56"H x 48"W; this diptych is adorned with hand-beaded roundels from Afghanistan, reverse appliqué, hand-stitched embroidery and myriad embellishments, such as sheesha mirrors and chandelier and natural crystals.
Mangat’s quilts range from traditional to abstract to pictorial, with portraits containing finely embroidered faces, including one that honors Rosa Parks. While some quilt artists produce detailed sketches and map out every part of a piece ahead of time, Mangat relishes the process of designing as she goes. “I enjoy working this way because the challenge of figuring it out pulls me through all the work,” she remarks. “With all these ingredients, it’s so much fun.”

Mangat’s creations tell personal stories, yet they also touch on themes of universal human experience. Among these are our connection with life-giving water and rain, the nurturing earth, and symbols of prayer and spiritual vision among cultures around the world. Notes collector and Studio Art Quilt Associates board member John M. (Jack) Walsh: “Terrie effectively touches very deep subjects with a light hand. Her works have a brightness and energy, which makes them very approachable while having layers of meaning that make it rewarding to spend time contemplating them in depth. 

Mangat’s quilts have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the country and named among the Top 100 American Quilts of the 20th century. Her largest piece to date is a 13-by-26-foot, three-panel commission for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Amarillo, Texas. Her work is currently on view at the Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati.

Left: Bee’s Knees, 24"H x 12"W is from Hancock Mangat’s new fabric collection.

Right: Cairn With Cherry, 17"H x 15"W; this framed work features vintage African “cherry” trade beads.

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