TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, December 17, 2009

40 Acres Art Gallery Displays Quilts by African-American Quilters

 Marion Coleman, Susan #3, 2006
Stitched fiber collage portrait, 63 x 53 inches

by Donna Hussain

A collection of quilts sewn by African-American quilters from northern California has been on display at the 40 Acres Art Gallery in Sacramento, California for the past two months.  The exhibit of quilts, titled Amazing Wonders, was curated by Kim Curry- Evans, the gallery’s director, who worked with many individuals and organizations in the community to plan and promote the show. Most influential was Dr. Patricia Turner, a Professor of African-American Studies at UC Davis, who met with Mrs. Curry-Evans while working on a book on African-American quilters (later published as Crafted Lives).  The meeting sparked the idea of an exhibit of quilts by African-American quilters from northern California at the 40 Acres Art Gallery.

Patricia Bass Bailey, African Sawtooth, 2008, cotton fabric and thread, 
African embroidery designs, 53 x 53 inches

Given the large number of accomplished African-American quilters in the area whose work met the artistic standards of the 40 Acres Art Gallery, the final selection of quilts for the show was difficult.   Wall space in the gallery limited the number of quilts that could be placed on display.  Mrs. Curry-Evans wanted to show the cultural and artistic vitality of Africa-American quilters and a wide range of quilt-making styles.  In addition, she was cognizant as the gallery’s reputation as a teaching gallery. She wanted all of the quilts to be learning experiences for viewers.

 Sherry Byrd, Bars Medallion, 1992
Synthetic velvet, hand pieced and quilted, 99 x 78 inches

In a visitor’s booklet on Amazing Wonders, Dr. Turner has written an essay that explains how the quilts on display “offer not only insights into the culture of quilt making, but also provide valuable launching pads for discussions about African-American culture.” For example, Connie Horne’s quilt Fiber of Slavery: Strong Women Picking Cotton invites the viewer to consider the historical evidence that few women slaves were domestic workers.  Most shared in the physical demands of fieldwork along with their male counterparts.

Connie Horne, Fiber of Slavery - Strong Women Picking Cotton, 2007
Applique and machine quilted with toon and hand dyed fabric, fabric paint, 
42 x 36 inches

 In contrast is Kate Wisham’s Obama Quilt which illustrates the strides forward of African-Americans in contemporary American society.

 Katie Wishom, Obama Quilt, 2009
Collection of cotton t-shirts, machine stitched, 79 x 52 inches

Angie Tobias’s quilt Bars Medallion is drawn from the collection of Eli Leon, who claims that the bold asymmetrical stripes of the quilt demonstrate ”that African-derived aesthetic impulses and preferences for irregular patterning, bright colors, and horizontal strip constructions remain embedded in the creative imaginations of many black quilters.” This statement is certain to evoke heated discussion.

 Angie Tobias, Bars Medallion, 1984
Satin fabrics, hand pieced and quilted, 65 x 47 inches

The 40 Acres exhibit has been well received by the public.  Unfortunately the exhibit at the Sacramento gallery will close on December 23rd.  However, Amazing Wonders will reopen at the Richmond Arts Center in Richmond, CA in January. If you live in the Bay Area, do attend the show.  As Patricia Turner writes in the 40 Acres booklet, “Each of the quilts … reflects the hard work and vision of someone both talented and disciplined, someone able to bring to fruition a complicated and time consuming process.  Taken together, all of the quilts in this exhibit speak to the aesthetic dexterity, spirit and tenacity of African-American quilters.  They offer multiple lessons for all of us.”

 Johnnie Wade, Star Medallion, 1989
Cotton and cotten blends, hand pieced and quilted, 71 x 88 inches

The quilt exhibit Amazing Wonders will be on display at the Richmond Arts Center from January 26–March 13, 2010.  More information can be found at: http://www.therichmondartcenter.org/

LaQuita Tummings, Goddess, 2009

Hand quilted and hand appliqued, incorporation prismacolor pencil, 
33 x 31 inches

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! They don't bother about straight lines and symmetry. And, after all, who needs straight lines in a quilt? I finished one without them and I don't miss them even in daily use. But what feeds the eyes every day are the bold colors, the way they interact, and the strong design. Truly inspiring.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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