Kaleidoscopic XVI: More Is More
Art, science, and enlightenment philosophy found the perfect expression in the kaleidoscope, invented in 1817 by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster. Kaleidoscopic images embodied the qualities associated with fancy (stimulating, ephemeral, and imaginative) and the virtues of rationality (proportion, symmetry, and beauty) as manifested through light, color, pattern, and motion. In 1819 Brewster published A Treatise on the Kaleidoscope, in which he recommended the use of the instrument in the design of carpets, wallpapers, and other “branches of the useful and ornamental arts.” The dazzling abstraction of the imagery had a profound effect on quiltmaking, in particular. One artist who has continued to mine the infinite magic of kaleidoscopic images for more than thirty years is New York quilt artist Paula Nadelstern.
Nadelstern uses slivers of fabric much as the kaleidoscope employs bits of colored glass and other objects to create changeable, bilaterally symmetrical patterns. In More Is More she designed four twelve-sided mandalas in an off-center construction that creates a sensation of spinning stellar orbs. Twenty-nine satellite kaleidoscopes incorporate bits of silk that simulate dichroic glass that changes color depending upon the angle of light hitting it.
Stacy C. Hollander, “Kaleidoscopic XVI: More Is More,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.