Category Archives: About Art

Quilt National 2009 – Art and Politics

Eons ago, it seems, I made a  quilt that is still travelling in the Quilt National 2009 show. The collector who purchased my piece is patiently waiting for its return… later this fall. While looking for the exhibition travelling schedule, I found this video by the Ohio Channel, about QN 2009. If you are curious about art quilting, this is a quick intro…

I was particularly touched by Memorial Day,  the piece created by Kathleen Loomis, in which she remembers the 4,083 US military dead in Iraq as of Memorial Day, May 26, 2008…  `Quilt National publishes an exhibition catalogue. The QN 2009 catalogue is available on Amazon.com and from other sources…

…and so is the catalogue of the  latest biennial show, Quilt National 2011, which is on display at the Dairy Barn, in Ohio until September 5th. That show will then start to travel for a couple of years.

One of the artists featured is Bean Gilsdorf, whose work tackles eloquently assorted political issues, politicians, bankers, and so on.

There is a long history of quilts being used to express political opinion. Women have been far from silent, with needle and thread. In this article, Patricia Cummings gives a good background on American political quilts, going back to the 19th century.

“54-40 or Fight”

Take, for example,  the Fifty-Four Forty Or Fight quilt block (link to the block pattern here, if you are interested). The block is named after one of the slogans that referred to the

 “Oregon boundary dispute, or the Oregon Question, arose as a result of competing British and American claims to the Pacific Northwest of North America in the first half of the 19th century. Both the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (USA) had territorial and commercial aspirations in the region as well as residual claims from treaties with Russia and Spain.” (From this Wikipedia page that provides a detailed description of that situation.)

In this US National Park Service page, there is a brief description of of the situation, and how war between the US and Great Britain was avoided by one wise Colonel Kearney.  Otherwise, the province where I live might have been “Oregon Territory”, or simply put, in the US…

Underground Railroad Quilts

Then, there are the blocks with secret meaning that were put into quilts to quietly help illiterate slaves follow a route of escape – the Underground Railroad – from the US to Canada. This black history website from Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, is chock-full of very interesting information. Worth exploring.

“The quilt patterns, used in a certain order, relayed messages to slaves preparing to escape. Each pattern represented a different meaning. Some of the most common were “Monkey Wrench”, “Star”, “Crossroads”, and “Wagon Wheel”. Quilts slung over a fence or windowsill, seemingly to air, passed on the necessary information to knowing slaves. As quilts hung out to air was a common sight on a plantation, neither the plantation owner nor the overseer would notice anything suspicious. It was all part of a day’s work for the slaves.” (From the Quilts page of the black history website, Owen Sound, Ontario.)

While this website goes on to explain that historians and scholars still dispute whether escaping slaves actually used these coded messages to find their way, we are reminded that there is no written proof of this “petite histoire”. It was passed down through the generations, as part of story-telling tradition.

There is also a reference to the music, songs that people sang to themselves for comfort – often gospel music. In Wade in the Water, the message refers to the flight of the Israelites from Egypt.  The lyrics are “instructional”… As a treat, I’ve added a video, a clip from an Alvin Ailey classic choreography, Revelations. Enjoy!

Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children.
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

Wow, this was a “round the arts” trip, with a detour via politics and quilting. Not bad for one evening.

Feel Stuck

I am a turkey. I apparently do more when I have to do more. Don’t know if this works for other people, but if I have a deadline, I try harder. So the procrastinating artist is pushed into action by several deadlines that loom… ever larger on the horizon.

My ambition? Use nuggets of ideas to produce some new works this summer.  We’ll see how that goes…

Now, that is texture!

Textiles of the Northwest Coast

The weather has improved and there is plenty to do around the house and garden. Still, planning excursions – even to the big city – can be fun. I am making lists of places to visit this summer, and Vancouver is on my list.

Do you need an excuse to check out Vancouver this summer? Well, here is one from the textile art file... Aboriginal Textile Art

TIME WARP
Contemporary Textiles of the Northwest Coast
July 16, 2010 – January 16, 2011
At the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
639 Hornby
Vancouver, BC

Time Warp is the first major exhibition to feature the contemporary practice of textile and fibre art on the Northwest Coast. The show celebrates 22 emerging, mid-career and internationally recognized Aboriginal textile artists, (20 female, 2 male), from Alaska, The Yukon, BC, and Washington State.
The works demonstrate a breadth of expertise, innovation, and cultural diversity. Historically, textiles were marginalized because they were, and still are, considered to be women’s work and purely decorative. Time Warp challenges this gender bias, which has contributed to inequalities of recognition and representation.
To learn more:  Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art