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Sydney Lee is a seventh generation quiltmaker from Raleigh, North Carolina. Sydney's quilts transcend tradition, embracing a contemporary aesthetic while honoring her traditional craft heritage. Influenced by both traditional quilts and modernist paintings, her quilts challenge perceptions of the medium, blurring the lines between art and craft. Her work explores the use of color, surface, function, and the grid. Sydney has exhibited works across the country, including the Hub-Robeson Gallery at Penn State University, the Cabarrus Arts Council in Cabarrus NC, Montgomery College in Rockville MD, New York Arts Practicum in New York, NY,  and Ox-Bow School of Art in Saugatuck, MI.

There is knowledge in our fingertips. My hands know the distance required between stitches better than my mind does, and they can understand the qualities of fabric just by rubbing a cloth between my pointer finger and thumb.  My hands know the importance of generational knowledge and never resist the urge to reach out and touch to understand better. My hands are my hands, but they’re also my mother’s hands.

I am a seventh-generation quilter on my matrilineal side, and that history informs the function of quilts in my practice for both the material richness and my personal connection with the medium. My decorative drive steers towards an interest in the surface, where composition and color become the main focus. I am creating quilts in a traditional method of making; utilizing my hereditary knowledge, while conceptually I am focusing on mark marking and composition that relates to modernist painting. In my work, I am utilizing the parameters of quiltmaking as a jumping off point, using the traditional structure of a square and bound edges that relate to a frame or the harsh edges of a painting. My studio practice has led up to a moment of synthesis between quilts as a form and a method of communication. Quilts have an inherent tie to the body due to their functionality and historical context as domestic objects, however I am questioning the relation of function in the domestic sphere by framing them in the context of paintings, existing purely for visual communication. My work is understood through the cultural connotations of craft, color, and form.

I aim to position my practice as a bridge between craft and fine art, with an emphasis on the intricacies of craft being the cornerstone of the work. Elissa Auther, in her book String, Felt, Thread, discusses how quilts and their presentation on the wall align with contemporary trends in painting. This positioning allows quilts a new aesthetic significance, elevating them to the realm of high art due to their resemblance to the more prestigious category of painted textiles. Both socially and artistically, my goal is to leverage my expertise in quiltmaking to contribute to the discourse of the status of craft as a subset of fine art. I aspire to achieve exactly what Auther articulated — to grant quilts the same aesthetic standing as high art.

My terminal project, When I Dream I See Real Things, focuses on large scale quilts installed on the wall as a reference to painting. These quilts are fully functional as domestic objects, but are rendered non-functional through installation methods. I am questioning the divide between craft and fine art by looking towards both traditional textile craftswomen and modernist painters from the 20th century. The inclusion of both functional and non-functional, painterly objects ties to my desire of blurring the lines between craft and fine art by using both languages of painting and quilting.