The two 14-foot square quilts created by artist Therese May for the San Jose Convention Center have moved to a new home.
The Willow Glen artist was commissioned to make the quilts two decades ago, when the convention center was new.
"It was a bold move on the part of the city to commission textiles as opposed to some other art medium for a place that large and with that much prestige," says Robin Treen, a respected independent curator who worked with San Jose to relocate the quilts to Seven Trees Community Center, 3590 Cas Drive.
"That was a long time ago, and quilt making was not seen in the same light as it is today."
May says her quilts--Animal Spiral, completed in 1991 and Butterfly, completed in 1993--are both about transformation.
"Butterfly is always about transformation, it's a universal symbol," May says. "Animal Spiral is also about transformation, but focusing on the journey home in a spiral with a pathway to the center."
The concept of transformation came about, May says, because the whole city was going through a transformation and redevelopment.
"When I first moved to San Jose in 1967, we still had a JC Penney and a Woolworth's and by the time the convention center was being constructed, none of that remained," May says. "Everyone was talking about how can we bring more people downtown and how can we revitalize it."
She adds, "I don't know if the city has truly been transformed, but San Jose is different."
In a 1993 photograph of May standing on a ladder in front of the Butterfly quilt, the petite artist is almost lost in the collage of bright colors and patterns.
Treen points out that historically textiles used to be hung in public places--primarily tapestries, which because they are made with organic materials deteriorate over time.
"Tapestries have disappeared from public places, and other kinds of artwork have risen to more prominence," Treen says.
She points out that May knew where her works were going and constructed them with that in mind.
"She used many layers and robust materials," Treen says. "She constructed them in pieces that ultimately fit together in the end, in the tradition of quilt making."
The two quilts have held up remarkably well, Treen says.
To move them to their new home at Seven Trees required a large truck. Once there, Treen cleaned the quilts and did conservation work.
In their new home, they are not as exposed to natural light, and getting them down for cleaning will be easier, she says.
Although she admits being sad at seeing her quilts leave the convention center, May has visited them at Seven Trees and says it's a "wonderful home for them."
Jennifer Easton, program supervisor for San Jose Public Art, says the move has been good both for the quilts and for the people who use Seven Trees as they love them.
When the convention center expansion is complete, the tile facade originally commissioned for it will remain, but there will be one major change in the front plaza.
It will have a central sculpture that Easton describes as "an interactive experience that takes viewer engagement and remixes it into a soundscape underneath the artwork."
Titled Tree of Ideas, it is the work of artist Soo-In Yang, an artist and architect known for his interactive public art.
The convention center piece will have a tree-like canopy supported by three groups of columns with a nearby "sound booth" allowing people to leave short voice messages. Their comments will be transmitted back under the canopy, after screening by a smart computer recognizing profanity.
More than a half-million people visit the center each year, and keeping them from just rushing through the plaza was a factor in deciding on Yang's piece Easton says.
Plus, she adds, "We wanted to give visual expression that we are the capitol of Silicon Valley."