Throughout history, quilts have held an important and cherished place in our culture, particularly in the American South. Though the materials and techniques of quilt making may be common; quilts, as process, as art, and as image, embody the very fabric of our country.
In the late 20th century several communities in Alabama, including Gee’s Bend and Eutaw, received national attention as a result of the scholarship that focused specifically on the historic context of quilts in the rural environment, and this scholarship also inspired a new appreciation for their aesthetic appeal. A collection of 30 colorful and creatively designed quilts by African-American quilt makers, primarily of West Alabama, opened at the Albany Museum of Art on Nov 30 and will run through February 24, 2018.
The quilts are a part of the permanent collection of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, Ala. Most were made between the mid-1950s and the end of the 20th century, and represent the major themes in traditional quilt making.
The exhibition includes examples of pieced quilts, appliqué, as well as the improvisational techniques and use of unconventional materials that are common practice for contemporary quilt makers. The quilts are grouped within three sections: Tradition: Patterns from the Past, Improvisation: Practical Invention, and An Unconventional Canvas: The Quilts of Yvonne Wells.
The exhibition sections are designed to introduce traditional patterns, and to show the improvisations upon these patterns that distinguish the work of individual quilters. Modern quilt making is exemplified in the exhibition by a group of outstanding narrative quilts by Tuscaloosa quilt maker, Yvonne Wells.
Ms. Wells is scheduled to be in Albany to talk about her quilts later in February. The museum has also planned a quiltmaking class for those who get inspired to make their own quilt.
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts began its collection of African-American quilts from West Alabama in 2004 by acquiring the collection of Mr. Kempf Hogan of Birmingham, Michigan. Hogan assembled the collection over a period of many years with the guidance and expertise of the late Dr. Robert Cargo, of Robert Cargo Folk Art Gallery, formerly of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The two men identified the most important quilt makers working in the region, and began gathering the works systematically to exemplify the finest achievements of these self-taught artists, and to represent the breadth of their talent and creativity. The total holdings of the museum’s quilt collection have expanded to include more than 60 examples, by such master quilters as Mary Maxtion, Lureca Outland, Nora Ezell, and Yvonne Wells.