CINCINNATI.- This spring visitors to the Cincinnati Art Museum will celebrate the American tradition of quilt making through the special exhibition Masterpiece Quilts from the Shelburne Museum. This internationally recognized collection features more than 35 quilts from the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions; they date from the 1800s to 1900s. The exhibition will remain on view Feb. 16 –June 1, 2008 and admission is free.
“Every visitor probably has a friend or family member who either owns a quilt or is a quilter. This exhibition showcases the finest quilts and will give visitors a chance to appreciate the amazing skill and craftsmanship required to create these textiles,” said Cynthia Amnéus, associate curator of costume and textiles.
The exhibition will feature an interactive space where visitors can try their hand at quilting, as well as see quilting demonstrations by members of the Ohio Valley Quilters’ Guild. The Art Museum will also collaborate with the guild to create a quilt using fabric donated by the Cincinnati community. Visitors can see the completed quilt during Community Day on April 5 at the Art Museum.
Quilt making has been an integral part of the American culture since the late 18th century, especially for women. Although quilts are often thought of as only functional bed coverings, most of the pieces in this exhibition were actually created as works of art –they were made to be admired rather than used. Historically, needlework has been one of the few avenues for women to express themselves. Quilts embodied expressions of love and grief, family connections and friendship. They also recorded historical events and sometimes served as a means to express political views.
“Those traditions have been passed on from one generation to the next and women’s thoughts and emotions are still stitched into both traditional and art quilts created today,” said Amnéus.
The exhibition includes over 35 quilts from the Shelburne Museum’s collection, regarded for its exceptional depth, range and quality. Organized by different construction techniques, the exhibition includes album, Amish, appliqué, chintz appliqué, pieced, crazy patchwork and whole cloth quilts.
“Each of the different styles of quilts seen in this exhibition require a different set of skills and exemplifies an extraordinary range of artistic impulses,” said Amnéus. “Visitors will see orderly designs such as the Amish Concentric Squares Quilt, as well as quilts with rich textures and chaotic patterns like the Crazy Patchwork Quilt.”
Album Quilts - Characterized by equal-sized square blocks and the prominent use of fashionable red and green fabrics. Common motifs include wreaths, flowers and fruit. The most expensive fabrics are used with virtually no batting, which indicates that they were never used, only admired.
Amish Quilts - Feature bright colors and simple geometric shapes, black is often the background of choice both to contrast with adjacent bold colors and recycle fabric leftover from making clothes.
Appliquéd Quilts - Individual motifs are cut from different fabrics and hand sewn onto a solid background creating a bold design.
Chintz Appliquéd Quilts - Featuring flower-printed cottons known as chintz (from the Hindu word chitta, meaning spotted), these quilts were typically made by wealthy women since the fabric was extremely expensive.
Crazy Patchwork Quilts - Asymmetrical designs using a wide variety of fabrics in different shapes, color and sizes often embellished with embroidery, ribbons or hand-painted scenes.
Pieced Quilts - Frequently used technique in which small geometrically shaped pieces of fabric are stitched together to make a larger design.
Whole-Cloth Quilts - Typically made of printed cotton, both American and European, the focus being the elaborate quilting design rather than a design made by stitching a variety of fabrics together.