FAUV: An Exploration of Color, Light and Space
Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA - Website

"Eleanor McCain's compelling sense of color and form closely resemble
symphonic structures well known for their emotive qualities."
Mark Richard Leach, Director,
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art


A passion for quilting helps a Fort Walton Beach
internist connect with her patients.

A soft cotton quilt graces the wall of Dr. Eleanor McCain's reception area. It combines a strik­ingly bright combination of red and blue squares and stripes, adding a dose of color to an otherwise traditional doctor's office. Made by the doctor herself, it's the first sample of her work you see as you move around the building.

Step through the door that leads to Eleanor's exami­nation rooms, and more quilts line the narrow hall, as well as the exam rooms themselves. It's a gallery of sorts that has a decorating scheme with a purpose. In many ways, Eleanor contends, a quilt symbolizes the care we receive at the doctor while at the same time act­ing as a salve to the apprehension many of us face while there. "There's something comforting about a quilt," she says. "There's the connection to a quilt's warmth while it's wrapped around you and, for many of us, a connection to someone in the family who has made quilts. People can relate to that."

"I realized that quilting
could be a completely contemporary
expressive art form."

---Eleanor McCain

Finding Her Medium

The connection between her creative and professional pursuits wasn't intentional, at least not at first. An inter­nist and a Panama City native, Eleanor didn't seriously pursue quiltmaking until a few years after she graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1981. Yet she came from a family of artists; her grandmother was a quiltmaker, and her mother is a watercolorist and writer. "As long as I can remember, I've loved mak­ing things with my hands." But during her youth, she was an artist without a dedicated medium.

Along the way, Eleanor realized she preferred creating things she could handle, touch, even use. "I tried macramé, needlepoint, embroidery, and furniture, and I realized that at some point, I would have to settle on a form. I thought traditional quilts were nice, but they felt repetitious to me. It took awhile for me to realize that I could develop my own style." That revelation came during a quilt show at the Connell Gallery in Atlanta in the early 1980s. "I realized that quilting could be a completely contemporary, expressive art form," Eleanor says.


What she wanted was a style flush with color that draws from such influences as her mother's water­color paintings, 20th-century abstract painter Mark Rothko, and the Florida landscape. "I will look for unusual color combina­tions from nature, and then I will try to figure out what makes the combinations work." While the designs of her quilts are contemporary, Eleanor's use of hand-dyed fabrics, patchwork, and stitched lines connect with more traditional schools of quilt­making. "I'm really attracted to the idea of participating in a classically female, previously demeaned form of art. I'm in awe of it. For me it references more of the history and the women who have done this for years and years. It is their form."

Functional Art

"Patients love the quilts," Eleanor says. "They like having reference points." She notes that many come in and talk about the quilts they or their family members made, and Eleanor gladly dis­plays those too."Patients bring in an old fam­ily pieces that they really admire, and I have them make a tag for it that tells who made it and where it's from. And some even bring in quilts they have made. We're shift­ing things around all the time, so patients actually have something to look forward to when they visit. We think it makes the office more friendly and receiving."

© 2008 Southern Living, Inc.
Reprinted with permission




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