March 1 2016 04:21 PM

El Cajon-based artist crafts bizarre and beautiful pieces

“One of My Kind” by Kathy Nida

Kathy Nida says she's used to the haters. The El Cajon artist has been crafting her surrealist quilts for almost 30 years and regularly travels to quilt shows and conferences to showcase her work. While most people appreciate the work, she says there will always be people who just don't get it.

"A lot of the process is the same kind of process most quilters use, but I scare people at quilt shows sometimes," says Nida, who uses a hand appliqué style.

Each piece starts as a drawing and each quilt contains up to 2,000 individual pieces of fabric and can take up to 100 hours to make. She says most of her quilts are inspired by dreams. One piece features a woman picking eyeballs out of a tree as if they're fruit. Another piece, "One Paycheck," upset a Virginia woman so much at a quilt show that she reported it to the local Fox News affiliate, saying that Nida's piece was pornographic. The piece features nudity, but there is nothing overtly sexual about it and actually deals in themes of homelessness and being a single mother living paycheck to paycheck.

"There's very little sex in my work, but it is about being a female, a feminist and being a mother," says Nida, a single mother of two. "You can't get away from your parts, man! They're there!"

Several local galleries have seen the artistic merit in Nida's work. The Hyde Gallery in El Cajon recently had several of Nida's pieces at a show entitled, Contemporary Crafts. She's hoping to show some of her work at Gallery D and the Oceanside Museum of Art over the summer but doesn't have any shows solidified quite yet. She says it's hard for galleries to get their heads around seeing quilting as a legitimate art form.

"Because I work in fabric, I don't really fit with the art community," says Nida, who also works as a middle school science teacher. "They walk away and label it as a craft, which is funny because the quilt world will be like, 'Wait, that's more like art.' There are magazines that won't print my work and shows that won't let me display, but I have a lot of support locally and abroad so I just look for the positive parts."


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