|Fans Variation, early 20th century - coming soon to my collection!!|
Last weekend was Quilt Adventure weekend, and I had a blast! On Saturday I was in Bellingham for the Quilt Adventure with Julie Silber, Joe Cunningham and Bob Shaw. The event was at the Whatcom Museum, location of the "American Quilts, The Democratic Art" exhibition. On Sunday, I was in Bellevue and saw the "Bold Expresions" exhibit at the Bellvue Arts Museum.
|Bob Shaw talks during the gallery tour|
|My quilt :)|
The exhibition at the Whatcom Museum is based on the book of the same title by Bob Shaw, author of several wonderful books about quilts and other collectibles such as duck decoys. I'd never met Bob, Julie, or Joe in person, and it was great to finally meet them. It was also great to finally see my "New York Beauty" quilt on display since I missed the opening, and great to see the Fans Variation quilt from Laura Fisher at Fisher Heritage in New York. That quilt will be part of my collection after the exhibition closes. If it looks familiar, that's probably because it's on the cover of Bob's book.
It's a great honor to be part of the exhibition, and I loved listening to Julie, Joe, and Bob talk about quilts. Fun to see old friends and meet new friends from Facebook and elsewhere. I was drained at the end of the day, and made my way down to Bellevue, where I stayed overnight at the Westin. When I got to my room, it was one of the special Westin Fitness suites, with a two ton treadmill in the middle of the room, and an exercise station with weights, exercise ball and yoga mat.
After I got done rolling on the floor laughing my ass off, I realized I'd gotten enough exercise to order room service- fried calamari with Romesco sauce, Kobe bacon burger with cheddar, and two cold beers. When they forgot the French fries, which I couldn't have eaten anyway, I got the whole meal for free. We won't say anything about the calamari crumbs on the treadmill.
|The food was gone in ten minutes, and an hour later I was out like a light|
On Sunday, I went to the Bellevue Arts Museum for the "Bold Expressions" exhibit of quilts from the collection of Corrine Riley. The quilts were wonderful, visually engaging works of art. But there was a problem. The quits were supposed to be African American, but only one quilt in the exhibit of more than 50 quilts was attributed to a specific maker. The quilt (pictured below) was made by known quiltmaker Sarah Mary Taylor, and features a wonderfully wonky American flag.
|Bellevue: only one quilt was attributed to a specific maker|
It's a great quilt, but not enough reason to call the whole collection African American. Even more problematic is the suggestion that there is a definitive, recognizable style of quilt that we can call African American based on its appearance. In other words, if it looks like a Gee's Bend quilt, it must be African American.
|Nice space, beautiful quilts, murky attribution|
I do not accept that thesis. It promotes a stereotype, one Cuesta Benberry and other scholars worked tirelessly to debunk. In a nutshell, I feel the collector clearly has a great eye for quilts, but the murky attribution really dragged down the exhibit. Call the quilts what they are - Southern improvisational quilts, scrap quilts, or even utility quilts - but don't call them African American if you don't know who the makers were. In 2012, we can do so much better than that.
When I got home, one of the two quilts waiting for me was a so-called African American quilt from an eBay seller in Texas. It looks like one of the Gee's Bend quilts, the iconic Bars and string pieced columns by Jessie T. Pettway, which was featured on a U.S. postage stamp, pictured below (bottom row, second from the right). The temptation to call it African American is real, but there's no maker's information. So, I am calling it a Stacked Bars quilt, c. 1950. (see how easy that was?)
All in all, a great weekend full of new friends and old, and dozens of wonderful quilts. I can't wait until my next quilt adventure!