Not so many years ago, artists were rather stunned to realize that they no longer had a monopoly on two-dimensional colored surfaces when they found their turf invaded by a determined corps of quilters wielding tiny, sharply pointed spears and trailing colored thread in piecing together all manner of woven material (and sometimes unwoven material) to create their wildly expressive tufted masterpieces. We painters especially woke up to the fact that quilting was no long a bunch of little old ladies sitting around an old-fashioned quilting frame gossiping over discrete, ages old geometric patterns. In many ways quilting, with its innovative material and surprising technical twists, was more vibrant and alive than the paintings we were doing. I still haven't lived down the fact that I once came in second to a QUILT in the painting category at an art show.

Well, hold on to your seat, it's all about to happen again. In nearby Athens, Ohio, the same folks who every other year bring you the "Quilt National" are about to host the "Bead International 2000." And lest you automatically think of strings of pearls discretely hung around mannequin necks, let me warn you, virtually anything WE can do in paint, THEY can do with beads, and like the upstart quilters, quite possibly do it BETTER. It's all going to take place May 27 through September 3, 2000. Beads, by the way, are those little pieces of..."whatever"...with a hole through the middle. I'm not trying to be "flip" here. That's literally how broad the definition of the medium is, and gives you some idea of how deep and wide this means of artistic expression has become. And if you want a peek at what's up and coming along this line, the Akron (Ohio) Art Museum still as on display the astounding work of one of the best--thru May 27, 2000.

Her name is Liza Lou. She was born in New York in 1969 and left college at the age of 21 when one of her professors objected strenuously to her wanting to "bead the world." Since then she's been doing just that while waiting tables and selling prom dresses to earn a living. The Akron museum has three of her large scale bead installations. The most impressive is a 12' x 13.5' x 8' totally beaded depiction of her kitchen featuring glittering beaded floor tile, beaded wall tile, beaded wood cabinets, beaded table cloth, Captain Crunch box, broom, dustpan, Tide detergent box, even a beaded cherry pie cooling on an extended oven rack. Utilizing some TEN MILLION glass beads, there is literally everything here INCLUDING the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes and beaded water. Not stopping there, she also did an even larger rendition of her back yard (26' x 18' x 9') including every beaded blade of bluegrass, beaded budding buds, and beaded buzzing bees (try saying that five times real fast). Not satisfied with that, she's even had the audacity to invade the sanctified realm of the portrait painter with her forty-two beaded portraits of past presidents. Does this woman have no SHAME?! I can't take it any more! I think I'll go lie down.