Exhibit: Rarely Seen American and European Quilts

An exhibition of some thirty-five exceptional American and European quilt masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts holdings will examine the impact of feminist scholarship on the ways in which historical quilts have been and are currently viewed, contextualized, and interpreted.

Only one of these rare quilts has been on public display in the past thirty years. &#8220Workt by Hand&#8221: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts will be on view in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art from March 15 through September 15, 2013.

Included will be works that span two centuries of quilt making, including superb examples of some of the most iconic quilt designs and techniques, such as the &#8220Barn Raising&#8221 or &#8220Log Cabin&#8221 style, the &#8220Garden Basket&#8221 style, &#8220Double Wedding Band&#8221 designs, the &#8220Rose of Sharon&#8221 pattern, the Amish &#8220Sunshine and Shadow&#8221 style, a variety of album quilts, and examples of the &#8220crazy quilts&#8221 that were in vogue in the late nineteenth century.

The exhibition explores the social history aspect of quilting through pieces such as an early nineteenth-century patchwork &#8220Liberty Quilt&#8221 with an American eagle at the center, attributed to Elizabeth Weltch of Warren County, West Virginia, that exemplifies how women used symbols of the American Revolution in quilts. Among the examples of the crazy quilt pattern is an extraordinary work by Mary A. Stinson, intricately made with the vibrantly colored textiles that were newly affordable at the time of the quilt’s making, and featuring an elaborate floral border.

In addition to examining the role of feminism in the popular medium of quilting, the exhibition will also explore the merits of quilts as art, and the medium as an aspect of material culture with significant social and political implications. Included in the exhibition will be historical installation photographs depicting a variety of quilt display techniques- newspaper clippings- sample pieces of quilts- and other ephemera relating to the history of quilts.

The term &#8220workt,&#8221 featured in the exhibition title, cites the archaic spelling of &#8220worked,&#8221 and the phrase &#8220workt by hand’ is common in historical quilting literature, where it indicates the distinctive and personal nature of an object produced by a skilled craftsperson. &#8220Hidden labor&#8221 references the considerable creative energy women have used to create quilts, which often went unrecognized by a society that valued individually creative activities undertaken by men.

&#8220Workt by Hand&#8221 was organized by Catherine Morris, curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. It is presented with support from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue and will travel to venues to be announced.

In the adjacent gallery in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist art, celebrating its sixth year, is the permanent installation of The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago’s iconic masterpiece celebrating the achievements of women throughout history through craft forms associated with the domestic, or feminine, realm. Each table setting, unique to the woman whose life it honors, includes a hand-painted china plate, ceramic flatware and chalice, and a napkin with an embroidered gold edge. The settings rest upon elaborately embroidered runners, executed in a variety of needlework styles and techniques taken from the periods in which these women lived.

The exhibition will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from March 15-September 15, 2013.

Image: Elizabeth Welsh (American). Medallion Quilt, circa 1830. Cotton, 110 ? x 109 in. (280.7 x 267.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society, 78.36. Photograph by Gavin Ashworth.

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