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Faces of Faith: The Search for Divine, Art Quilts by Penny Sisto

As she speaks about the fabrics she uses to create her art, Penny Sisto becomes absorbed in memories of their origins: the relationships she treasures with friends who gave her bits of fabrics and the experiences she has had searching them out in shops and thrift stores. When asked about her fascination with combining scraps of dissimilar fabrics in her works, Penny replied, “I guess that’s why I make quilts. I like to gather pieces back together to heal.”

This principle applies to the artist’s approach to her community as well. She relishes the diversity of the world around her and is deeply pained by the divisions that occur when misunderstanding colors people’s views of each other. For the series of artworks presented in this exhibition, Sisto researched five of the world’s major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. She discovered through her study that they share many similar rituals, histories and messages. The quilts she created illustrate those commonalities and celebrate the contributions of each religion to world culture.

Penny Sisto is an internationally recognized artist who has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad. International presentations of her work include the exhibition of a grouping of Holocaust quilts at the Gatehouse of Auschwitz and a selection of her Slavery series quilts that were displayed at the Royal Armories Museum in Leeds, England in 2008. She has won numerous awards and honors for her artwork and has been the subject of two public television programs. She is known for the difficult subjects, such as AIDS, poverty and racism that she addresses in her works, as she advocates for social justice and peace.

In her artist’s statement for “Faces of Faith: the Search for the Divine,” Sisto writes, “I wanted to follow the thread of my own belief, a belief which teaches that all of us are equal in the sight of God and that each and every Faith will lead us to the same place of enlightened compassion and stillness that we call the Divine. In this quilted journey I rediscovered that we find similar stories and parables in every religion. My desire was to illustrate those paths which unite us… to show through these quilted images the whispers and inner prompting which guide us ever deeper into our individual Search for the Divine.”

In the exhibition catalog, Peter Morrin, Executive in Residence and Associate at the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences, writes, “Artistically, Penny Sisto is a nomad. She makes a nomad’s art, like the carpets woven by nomadic peoples in the Middle East. Unlike traditional Western paintings and sculptures, her quilts are easily rolled or folded. This befits an artist whose life has been lived on the margins: between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea in the Orkney Islands, in the bush in Kenya, in rural Northern California and in exurban Kentucky and Indiana.”

This exhibition is the inaugural show for the Carnegie Center’s newly renovated changing exhibitions galleries. Also new for this exhibit are podcasts of Penny Sisto and Dr. Roy D. Fuller, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University

Southeast, speaking about the artworks in this exhibit. You can listen to these audio recordings at the exhibit or by clicking here. “Faces of Faith: the Search for the Divine” and accompanying programs are generously supported by the Arts Council of Southern Indiana and the Carnegie Center, Inc.

The views presented in this exhibition are not necessarily those of the Carnegie Center for Art & History or the Arts Council of Southern Indiana.