Chappell Ellison | Essays

650 Quilts

All too often, a time-honored tradition like quilting is written off as just something your grandmother did. Hidden in cedar trunks or stuffed into crowded closets, quilts are generally viewed as a way to keep warm in the winter months. But the American Folk Art Museum plans to expand this perception with a new exhibition, Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts.

In what will be the largest quilt exhibition presented in New York City, over 650 red and white American quilts will be displayed, on loan from private collector Joanna Rose. From March 25 - 30, the curated quilts will transform the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall. The exhibition is organized by guest curator Elizabeth V. Warren, an authority on quilts and trustee of the American Folk Art Museum, and Stacy C. Hollander, project director and the museum's senior curator.

By narrowing the focus of the show to a specific color combination, the curators encourage the viewer to focus on the design and pattern of each quilt. "It is an honor to be involved with this amazing exhibition and it will be a pleasure to select examples of the quilts for the museum's permanent collection," says Warren. "We have known that many red and white quilts were made during the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, but this large collection allows us to study a much longer period of creativity using this color scheme and a much wider scope of design than was ever envisioned."

Spanning three hundred years, the designs have an incredible range: from traditional and symmetrical, to playful optical illusions.

The vortex-like display of the exhibition was conceived by Thinc Design, who will be holding a discussion on the design process on March 25 (see information below). The quilts are given a three-dimensional treatment, suspended from the ceiling to be viewed from all angles. In other words — when it comes to quilts, you've never seen this much drama.

Friday, March 15; Saturday, March 26; Monday, March 28; Tuesday, March 29, 11 am - 7 pm
Sunday, March 27 and Wednesday, March 30, 11 am - 5 pm


Infinite Possibility: The Making of Infinite Variety
Friday, March 25, in the Tiffany Room
6–7 pm
Speakers: Tom Hennes and Steven Shaw
Fee: $30 general; $25 museum members, seniors, and students
The design team that realized the vision of “Infinite Variety” will discuss the genesis of the exhibition concept and the process of bringing it to fruition. Join Tom Hennes and Steven Shaw of Thinc Design for a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at a year-long creative journey. The talk will be followed by a wine reception.

Quilt Conversation: Alex Anderson and Paula Nadelstern
Saturday, March 26, in the Tiffany Room
4–5:30 pm
Speakers: Alex Anderson and Paula Nadelstern
Moderator: Meg Cox
Fee: $30 general; $25 museum members, seniors, and students
Two of the most important figures in contemporary quiltmaking discuss current topics in quilts and respond to questions from the audience. Moderated by writer, quiltmaker, and Alliance for American Quilts president Meg Cox. The conversation will be followed by a wine reception and book signing.

Infinite Variety: A History of Red and White Quilts
Sunday, March 27, in the Tiffany Room
2–3 pm
Speaker: Elizabeth V. Warren
Fee: $20 general; $15 museum members, seniors, and students
Red and white has been a classic color scheme for American quilts since the early nineteenth century. Guest curator Elizabeth V. Warren will discuss the popularity of the color combination and the different kinds of quilts that employ it, including geometric pieced quilts, traditional appliqué and “snowflake” appliqué quilts, “fund-raisers,” including Red Cross quilts, and embroidered quilts. The talk will be followed by a book signing.

Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts will cap the American Folk Art Museum's "Year of the Quilt." Currently on view at the museum is Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, a two-part exhibition. The first installation can be seen through April 24, 2011 and the second from May 10 to October 16, 2011. At the museum's branch location at Lincoln Square is the exhibition Super Stars: Quilts from the Collection, through September 25, 2011.

Comments [2]

please can you come down to Perth Australia so we can see this!!!
Laura Jones

Portland, Oregon too. The quilts are beautiful and the display is amazing.
Megan Daline

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