Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts
Sept 17, 2021 – Jan 23, 2022
A traveling exhibition from the American Folk Art Museum in New York, NY.
Looking across city blocks and quilt blocks, roadways and seams, one can see a visible kinship between quilt making and cartography. Both are built upon established systems that use color, pattern, and symbols to create whole compositions from a network of interlocked parts. Quilts and maps are also infused with history and memory—similarly living records of traditions, experiences, relationships, beliefs, and future aspirations. What can be gleaned from a bit of patchwork cut from a wedding dress, castoff feed sack, or commemorative flag? How are personal, political, cultural, and spiritual ideals inscribed onto a quilt’s surface, creating a network of roadways and landmarks that illustrate the quilt maker’s world and his or her place within it?
Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts is an invitation to read quilts as maps, tracing the paths of individual stories and experiences that illuminate larger historic events and cultural trends. Spanning the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the exhibition brings together a collection of quilts from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum that represents a range of materials, motifs, and techniques—from traditional early-American quilts to more contemporary sculptural assemblage.
Exhibition curator: Sarah Margolis-Pineo, assistant curator, Self-Taught Genius Gallery, American Folk Art Museum.
Image credit: Nora Ezell’s Star Quilt (1977). Collection of the American Folk Art Museum. Features a traditional eight-pointed Star of Hope pattern drawn from the artist’s own knowledge of the legacy of slavery, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction in the Jim Crow South. The star motif evokes the celestial navigation used by slaves on the Underground Railroad. The extraordinary quilts in this exhibition are living records of cultural histories, political and spiritual beliefs, and future ambitions.
This exhibition is generously supported by Humanities Washington and The Norcliffe Foundation.
Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts was originated by the American Folk Art Museum, New York, and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington D.C.