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Amy Ahlstrom’s ‘pop art in fabric’ on view at Open Studios

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Amy Ahlstrom’s contemporary quilts are inspired by San Francisco. (Courtesy Amy Ahlstrom)

A truly satisfying experience for all concerned, San Francisco Open Studios turns The City into a galaxy of opportunities to meet local artists in their workplace, establish a rapport, and buy a one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

More than 800 artists of all stripes are participating in Open Studios’ 40th-anniversary event, presented by ArtSpan. The citywide four-weekend exhibition kicks into full gear Saturday and Sunday at studios at Hunters Point Shipyard and Islais Creek.

Amy Ahlstrom refers to the event as a “gift” more rewarding than regular art openings.

“Through Open Studios, I’ve gained so much exposure, made sales, and had exhibition opportunities that would not have been available to me otherwise. The best part is interacting with people,” says Ahlstrom, whose South-of Market studio will be open Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

Influenced by pop art and the Mission School and lowbrow street-art movements, Ahlstrom creates urban quilts that combine traditional methods with digital techniques and contemporary street imagery.

She visits urban neighborhoods and takes digital photographs of graffiti, signage and other found images. Using Photoshop, she samples these images and arranges them into collages that both document and envision their street settings. Hand-drawn images of faces also come into play.

From there, she creates a paper pattern and sews cotton and silk quilts, cutting images by hand and using the sewing-machine needle as a drawing tool.
She calls the results “pop art in fabric.”

Her 12- by 36-inch quilt “Ocean Avenue (Invaders)” was chosen as Open Studios’ 2015 cover piece. Part of a series dedicated to the thoroughfare in San Francisco’s Ingleside neighborhood, the quilt has a modern mythological look with hints of Peter Max and a retro restaurant sign.

“I love the old signage on the avenue and I wanted to include landmarks like Beep’s Burgers and essentially create a portrait of the neighborhood that is both real and imagined,” says Ahlstrom.

“En Fuego” contains a colorful image of a skull, and other quilts have facial images that suggest Warhol portraits.

As for the financial conditions facing artists in this increasingly unaffordable city, Ahlstrom, whose future is threatened by an impending rent increase, expresses concern and hope. She says, “There’s still so much creative energy here, and I hope that the community and the city government come together to preserve the art scene.

She credits organizations such as ArtSpan for helping artists display their work and engage with the public.

IF YOU GO
San Francisco Open Studios
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m Saturdays-Sundays; closes Nov. 8
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 861-9838, www.artspan.org
Note: Amy Ahlstrom shows her work Weekend 3 in Studio 18 at SoMa Artists’ Studios, 689 Bryant St., S.F.

2015 Schedule

Oct. 17-18: Hunters Point Shipyard, Islais Creek Studios
Oct. 24-25: Fort Mason, Marina, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, North Beach, Hayes Valley, NOPA, Western Addition, Haight, Buena Vista, Richmond, Presidio, Sunset, West Portal, Oceanview
Oct. 31-Nov. 1: SOMA, Tenderloin, MIDMA, Downtown, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bayview, Portola, Excelsior, Balboa Park
Nov. 7-8: Mission, Castro, Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, Upper Market, Glen Park

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