For generations, textiles have been used to make utilitarian goods, but artists like Carole Frocillo use fabric to create fine art. Instead of choosing a tube of paint, she chooses fabric based on color and texture. These pieces are melded together to create an image, and for Frocillo, to tell a story.
Basically self-taught, Frocillo started traditional quilting in the late 1990’s to make a memory quilt for her daughter. While working from a pattern taught her the basics of working with fiber, she eventually wanted to move to an area where she could create her own individual work. It was at that point she discovered art quilts.
Frocillo begins with an idea or inspiration before “painting” with fabric. She sketches out her idea and sometimes uses copyright-free images which are manipulated and enlarged to the size she wants as a template. The image is totally unrecognizable, but gives her the right proportions. Strips of fabric are cut in a variety of shapes and sizes and fused. The edges of the fabric are left raw.
“I like the way the fabric frays, the organic nature of it when it’s done,” explains Frocillo.
It’s then stitched to a fabric background followed with topstitching in a freeform which adds another dimension and level of interest to the image.
Acceptance of fiber as a fine art is gaining credibility in the market. Many fiber artists choose to show their work in a traditional fiber setting like a quilt show, but Frocillo has chosen to pursue the fine art arena.
“In the traditional setting,” Frocillo said “work is judged first by its technical merit. While I want my work to be technically correct, I can best articulate my thoughts by creating a piece of art.”
In 2014, Frocillo won Best of Show at the Secura Arts Show held at the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton.
“I was so excited to win,” she said “until I understood what it meant I needed to do for next year.”
The winner displays a large exhibition at the following year’s show, and Frocillo’s winning piece was the only one she had made. The learning curve was steep.
Working 12 to 18 hour days, she learned how to work in a series.
“I didn’t look at the entire body of work until I laid it out at the museum in 2015,” Frocillo said “ and it was then that I realized these pieces were the story of my life. I come from Detroit, Michigan and the ‘Remnants Series’ are of what my childhood home looks like now. Everything is gone, the few remaining homes are abandoned, the street is gone, and it’s become an area where you cannot visit. It’s too dangerous. That got me thinking about remnants, and I wanted to stick with that: Detroit’s empty downtown buildings, an abandoned subway, lost neighborhoods. There’s beauty in the remnants and there’s beauty in the structure. It can be related to getting older and how people tend to value you less as a person. As you age, you are, in essence, a remnant of what you once were, but there’s strength and beauty in what’s remaining.”
Frocillo enters shows with a statement or theme. She’s recently entered a show exhibit about skin, and specifically how people view skin color. She’s taken the outlined image of a fingerprint and laid it over a fabric photograph collage of families who are of different religions, ethnicity and color. It’s a beautiful and provocative piece of art.
Frocillo has also been creating dimensional pieces. She recently created a fiber piece depicting cranes landing on a nest. The nest is created from bits of acrylic yarn, string, and whatever else she could find, which is woven and attached together like birds building a real nest. The cranes are made from purple, green and pink men’s ties.
“I don’t want to recreate a photograph of birds,” Frocillo said “and match their natural color. I want to change it up.”
Frocillo belongs to the Studio Art Quilters Association and has exhibited in their regional and national shows. Her work is at the Hang Up Gallery in Neenah, Two Fish Gallery in Elkhart Lake, and Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island.
Frocillo’s website is caroleannfrocillo.com