An Eye-Opening Exhibition in Ohio Looks at the Role of Quilting in Radical American Social Movements—See Works Here

Dec 2, 2020

What the museum says: “Disrupting our expectations of quilts as objects that provide warmth and comfort, this exhibition will explore the complicated and often overlooked stories quilts tell about the American experience, offering new perspectives on themes including military action and protest, civil rights, gender equality, queer aesthetics, and relationships with land and the environment.

“Why it’s worth a look: The quilts on view in this show are set against the backdrop of social movements and political life in the United States. With examples of quilts documenting and memorializing the AIDS crisis, the Vietnam War, and systemic racism in the US, the stories woven into these works are small squares of a larger patchwork history.

The show traces the history of the craft by looking at the Gee’s Bend quilters, contemporary practitioners like Judy Chicago and Bisa Butler, and anonymous artists who created some of the works on view. Butler, a native of Orange, New Jersey, says of her work: “I am telling the story—this African American side—of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.”

What it looks like:

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, The Ragmud Series: Volume 8, Slave Epics (1987-2008). Toledo Museum of art.

AIDS Memorial Quilt panel from the NAMES project. Courtesy the Toledo Museum of Art.

Artist unidentified; initialed “J.F.R.” | Cleveland-Hendricks Crazy Quilt (1885-1890).American Folk Art Museum. Image Credit: American Folk Art Museum / Art Resource, NY.

TMA COVID-19 Quilting Bee Square by Caitlyn Gustafson. Image courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Diana N. Diaye, So Many Twin Towers (2007). Courtesy of Michigan State University. Photo: Pearl Yee Wong.

Sabrina Gschwandtner, Hands at Work III (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery.

Abolition Quilt (ca. 1850). Courtesy of Historic New England.

Jean Ray Laury, Barefoot and Pregnant (1987). Courtesy of the International Quilt Museum, Univeristy of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Aaron McIntosh, small section from “Invasive Queer Kudzu” Project, (2015-2020). Courtesy of the Artist, Aaron McIntosh.

Judy Chicago, International Honor Quilt (IHQ) (1980). © 2020 Judy Chicago / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Faith Ringgold, Ben (1978). Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio) Image Credit: © 2020 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York.

Gen Guracar, Vietnam Era Signature Quilt, (ca. 1965-1973). Image Credit: International Quilt Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.