What That Quilt Knows About Me

At The American Folk Art Museum

March 17th, 2023 - October 29th, 2023

What That Quilt Knows About Me 
will open at the American Folk Art Museum on March 17, 2023. Their press release about the opening describes the upcoming events as follows...

"Featuring 35 quilts and related works of art, this exhibition will explore the deeply personal and emotional power associated with the experience of making and living with quilts. It is curated by Emelie Gevalt, Curatorial Chair for Collections and Curator of Folk Art at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) and Sadé Ayorinde, Warren Family Assistant Curator. 

Spanning from the 19th through 21st centuries, the works on view will reveal a range of poignant and sometimes unexpected biographies. From a pair of enslaved sisters in antebellum Kentucky to a convalescent British soldier during the Crimean War, the exhibition explores stories associated with both the makers and recipients of the works. On a quilt top from the 1890s, we find a surface bursting with narratives; in an example by Hystercine Rankin, a grid of small vignettes depicts scenes of family life defined by faith and toil.  

The exhibition also explores how artists have continually drawn inspiration from and pushed the boundaries of quilt-making to incorporate surprising materials and ideas, inviting audiences to consider these objects as archives of personal human experiences. Dindga McCannon’s Mary Lou Williams, a quilt-like work, is created with paint, photographs, and fibers, as a tribute to the jazz musician and cultural environment of Harlem. Jessie Dunahoo uses plastic bags and yarn to evoke quilt-like coverings that swath the interior surfaces of his home.

Drawn from AFAM’s rich and diverse collection, What that Quilt Knows About Me is divided into three main sections, each exploring different themes related to quilts. In one gallery, quilts that tell stories visually, through the incorporation of elements such as words or pictures, will invite the viewer into a personal world of characters and narratives. Another gallery highlights riffs on quilting in order to explore the boundless expressive possibilities of quilts and adjacent works.

A third section of the exhibition explores the personal and political stories of historically unheard makers, many of whom were women. Here, quilts and other textiles will represent a multiplicity of regional, cultural and ethnic histories, exploring the experiences of New England, Southern, Mid-Western, African American, Jewish, Amish, Navajo (Diné) and Hawaiian women, among others. The exhibition also includes excerpts from oral histories with present-day quilters, scholars, and others who discuss the rich histories of quiltmaking as it relates to different traditions and personal stories.

“Displaying these powerful objects through the lens of storytelling will allow viewers to engage with them in deeply personal, intimate ways,” said Emelie Gevalt, Curatorial Chair for Collections and Curator of Folk Art at the American Folk Art Museum. “We are continually astounded by how much meaning quilts can carry. We hope that the exhibition will cultivate an energetic and emotional space for viewers to be inspired by these works.”

Read the full description of "What That Quilt Knows About Me" on the American Folk Art Museum's site here.

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