One particular exhibition, "Quilts and Color: The Pilgrim/Roy Collection," at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (April 6 - July 27, 2014), made me stop and reflect on who were truly the first abstract artists.
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For example, the panel (below), part of a Kuba raffia cloth skirt, or the fighting shield (on the left) from Papua New Guinea, which I saw at the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show last winter, remind me of similar designs by several Western artists. Actually, the Western paintings remind me of the indigenous art.
The similarities between the quilts in "Quilts and Color" and modern art are uncanny. One hundred years or more before anyone was talking about abstract expressionism or op art, these women were juxtaposing colors and shapes in complex ways that resulted in optical illusions, even vibrations.
I think back to my last post about being attracted to art that seems our opposite. I picture the quilters sewing with vivid colors that were such a contrast to their lifestyle. Was it their means of achieving balance and expressing individual creativity? No matter how strict their communities were, the women found inner resources to go beyond the rules and regulations and be artists, even though they didn't identify themselves that way.
For more images of the exhibition, go to the museum website and click on "Preview Exhibition" as well as "Hear from the Curator and Collector." Interestingly, male collectors like Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy as well as Leon Eli (improvisational African-American quilts) have helped to change the public's perception of quilts. Branching out from traditional quilt-making, a wide array of contemporary art quilts, textile art, and fiber art demonstrates what else is possible. To view such artwork, go to Studio Art Quilt Associates and Surface Design Association websites as well as to Textile Artist and Festival of Threads.
Questions and Comments:
Have you ever thought of practical cloth objects made by women as art, or did they simply fall into the category of female handicrafts? Would you be surprised to learn that some men have become heavily involved in quilting?
If you're not already engaged or interested in textiles and you look at the websites I recommend, do they change your mind about sewn art? How so?