Biographical Statements  

Vicki Kessler

My first stitches, uneven and unsteady, were fashioned with bits of yarn on left-over scraps of fabric.  Sneaking into my mother’s sewing basket for small treasures, I sought to repeat the image of beauty everywhere around me in my homeland of southwest Wisconsin.  The wide and turbulent Mississippi River taught me about the subtleties of color shading.  Muddy, brown shore waters gradually shifted toward blue until they reached the islands, where greenish hues took center stage.  Tall, verdant hills with rocky outcrops demonstrated the power of texture and contrast.  Wild, dappled valleys revealed their secrets in undulating rhythms and surprising bursts of color.  These true delights of earth became my first teachers.

Color, rhythm and shape are key components in my art.  As in nature, the whole is more than the sum of parts.  The hideous stands beside the beautiful, the predictable companions the surprise, the exotic and the mundane are born in the same ground. The ancient, seasoned and well-worn offers perspective.  Newly emerging patterns bring a leap of inspiration.

Working with old fabric, linens, quilts, yarn, sweaters and clothing provides a balance to consumptive patterns and habits that threaten us. It offers an opportunity to reflect on values of connection and relationship, and helps me feel that with each stitch, I am mending a little portion of the world. 

Vicki Kessler, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, was born and raised in southwest Wisconsin.  She currently resides in Fargo, North Dakota.  She is a self-taught fiber artist who has been experimenting with cloth and stitch since childhood.  Vicki is a founding member of The Women’s Fiber Art Collective in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Collective’s work work is permanently installed in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ in DeForest, Wisconsin; Pilgrim Heights Retreat Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin; First Congregational United Church of Christ and Community of Hope United Church of Christ, both in Madison, Wisconsin.  Vicki also has work in the permanent collection of First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, SD and Hudson Hospital in Hudson, Wi.        

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Donna Kjonaas

The abundant, wide-open plains of North Dakota stretched into endless horizon under the dome of blue sky; this became first home to my imagination.  Grain fields waving in the wind marked time through seasons of planting, growth, harvest and rest. In life on the land, invention is the mother of necessity. Leftover utensils and farm tools made toys.  Hand-made clothing became a treasure, passed-down, taken-in, let out and refashioned for the next child in line.  Food from large gardens, preserved for the coming season, created an exhibit of form, color and texture.  Nothing ever wasted; potential found and cultivated beyond the present purpose. 

Reclaimed and repurposed materials such as linens, clothing, sweaters and quilts are transformed into compositions that hone principles of color, scale and texture, rich as the land of my birth. Seasonal palettes of prairie landscape dance through my work, varying from the intense green of spring to the golden-yellow hues of fall.  Dakota’s characteristic expansive swaths of land find reflection in techniques of collage, piecing and stitching.   Buttons, beads, thread and yarns are found objects that become embellishments building layers of texture.  Raw materials, old and worn with accumulated history, evolve expressively into art that honors the continuity of life made fresh for a new day and time.

Donna Kjonaas, a retired United Methodist minister, was born and raised in North Dakota.  She currently divides her time between residences in Fargo, North Dakota and Sanibel, Florida.  Interested in fiber and beauty from childhood, she has a background in clothing construction and quilting.  Her creative impulse along with her affinity for innovation soon led to exploration of non-conventional methods and materials in her artistic compositions.  She has taken several classes in paper-making, painting and book arts.  Her work is in the permanent collection of First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, SD and Hudson Hospital in Hudson, Wi.

Kessler/Kjonaas Art Statement          

What sustains us?  What nurtures us?  What holds us in connection?  What is satisfying?  What is enough? What challenges turn us toward awareness?  Collaborative, contemporary fiber artists Donna Kjonaas and Vicki Kessler explore these fundamental questions in their artwork. They reclaim historic, vintage and practical fiber through a variety of processes including discharge, painting, monoprinting and dyeing.  Rich embellishment with stitch, beads, buttons or felting completes each piece.  What was once old or useless emerges as an energetic and unexpected creation. Tactile and multilayered, the art invites viewers to visually move toward the inside of each piece.  Their abstract compositions open new vistas of connection through the imaginative use of color and common materials. 

Donna Kjonaas and Vicki Kessler began their work as collaborative artists in the mid-1980’s with liturgical installation art.  In the last three years, their combined efforts have produced a significant body of work which has been featured in five collaborative solo exhibits and in group shows across the country.  Their work is in public and private collections.