Radka Donnell

Radka Donnell

Radka Donnell was born November 24, 1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Stanford University, a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Certificate of Art from the Metropolitan College in Boston. In addition to her career as a painter, quilt maker and translator, Radka authored the book “Quilts as Women's Art: A Quilt Poetics,” a manifesto as bold and rule-breaking as the quilts she creates. Emphasizing the liberation and freedom of expression quilting gives her, Radka uses quilts to reach out to other women and enable dialogue about the body, emotions, and human contact. Radka's recent exhibition at the University of Nebraska included over two decades of her artwork and documented her commitment to women's issues. “Radka Donnell: The Work of Touch” can be found on the web at http://textilegallery.unl.edu

Related links:


Discussion on the history of mourning quilts and the bereavement process


How women use quilting to cope with tragic loss


Details about the AIDS quilt project


Renowned quilter Deidre Sherer focuses on issues related to aging and mortality


Community projects to make quilts for kids fighting life-threatening illnesses

Photo Album of Radka Donnell's Celebrated Work:


Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, University of Nebraska Lincoln

February 14 – March 7, 2003

Curated by Michael James

"Radka Donnell's quilts break many of the rules that have governed how quilts were designed and made for much of the last two hundred years and longer. They pay little heed to grids or to symmetry. Their colors are riotously and impulsively juxtaposed. They eschew fine stitching in favor of the functional and the no-nonsense. They avoid the familiar small-scale, genteel prints normally associated with quilts in favor of large-scale, graphically assertive patterns. The bold surfaces of these fabrics compete with and against one another, in frenetic dances of exaggerated visual energy." (Michael James)

First Biennial Symposium-Wild by Design: Features 4 Exhibtions
2003-02-14 until 2003-03-31 International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska

Four new exhibitions from the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska open in February in Lincoln Nebraska as part of the Center's first biennial symposium "Wild by Design." View the exciting Wild by Design: Two Hundred Years of Innovation and Artistry in American Quilts quilt exhibition in the newly renovated Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery. Enjoy an exhibition of Midwestern Amish crib quilts at the Great Plains Art Collection Gallery and see contemporary art quilts by Radka Donnell at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery. Finally, discover New Design/New Dynamics: Quilt Concepts for the 21st Century, a juried, multimedia exhibition of work created by college students from around the nation. All exhibitions are conveniently located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

Wild by Design: Two Hundred Years of Innovation and Artistry in American Quilts showcases American quilts that explore innovation in color, abstraction, figuration and other modes of expression. This dynamic group of quilts ranges in date from the early 1800s to the present day and illustrates the thread of originality that runs through American quilt history.

In her own words…..

"More than 30 years ago, in Lawrence, Kansas, making quilts became an issue of liberation for me. Thinking and talking about quilts, learning about their special nature as everyday objects in our lives and as women's art, have ever since, been a context for my search for the neglected part of myself and for a better human climate altogether. In my work in cloth, I not only work out my longing for a more perfect contact and union with other persons, but also strive to express universal human fears of oppression and death. Making quilts has become for me a struggle to secure a social space which is inviolable, fecund and hospitable to a sense of self and of the human community nourished by the spirit of the Goddess, a new consciousness protective of what is left of nature on this planet.

In the piecing, handling, and exhibiting of my quilts, I ran up against all prohibitions I had received as a woman: not to reach out, not to touch, not to get attention, not to demonstrate love, not to attempt to effect changes in society at large. To overcome these prohibitions, I had to budget my energies and time, and I decided to only piece the quilt tops by hand and by machine and to have them machine-quilted. Thus, the credit for my producing almost 600 quilts I share with Claire Mieke, who has machine-quilted my pieces since 1965. Aided by odd jobs and my work as a translator and day care substitute teacher, I pursue the making of quilts as a personal vision and as a joining of hands with other women making their cultural contribution in any walk of life and resisting oppression.

To dramatize the need for co-existence and difference among different individuals and cultures, I bring together textiles of diverse origins so as to make a vital statement, cognizant of our spiritual, deeply social sexual nature. Within the field marked by the quilts' borders and against the background of their traditional geometric block structure, I have striven for my liberation as a person by creating freer expressive structures than I could have in any other material. The format of quilts, sized by its reference to the body, allows me to bring in my emotions and body feelings also life-size, to create from the body outward and focused toward the body through the work of touch necessary to the piecing. The intimate connection between my emotions, the materials I use, how I touch these, and how the final product is used, namely, to warm and celebrate others; all this helps me to give my best."

From Radka Donnell's Own Bookshelf:

Quilts As Women's Art a Quilt Poetics Radka Donnell, available from Amazon at: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0969336128/hughlautelevinas/103-8247809-8823859


Radka Donnell has remained active both as an artist and a teacher. She has produced nearly five hundred quilts over the past thirty years, authored a book, and taught a course on the history, theory and techniques of quilting. She writes, "I stepped out of the 'art scene' when I began doing my quilts. I have stayed with quiltmaking because it helped me to find wholeness and be open to enjoy, advise, and validate the creativity of other women. I believe we are all equally creative, and my happiest moment regarding art was when one of my students said about my course, 'It helped me realize that I am more creative than I thought before.' This is my [current] objective, and if it does not make me an 'artist,' that's OK with me."