Probably New England
92 x 84 1/2"
Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York
Gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson, 2005.11.11
Photo by Gavin Ashworth
I found this quilt on the American Folk Art Museum's website. I went there because it was the folk art nature of quilting that originally attracted me to quilting and I was preparing a talk on "modern quilting". When I saw how very old the quilt was it really surprised me. 1820? Wow.
There are a lot of striking quilts in the American Folk Art Museum's collection but I decided to show you the one above, possibly because I'm totally self absorbed and it reminded me of a quilt that I had made:
65 x 80"
My potential narcissism aside, isn't it interesting to see these two quilts, made at least 170 years apart, having so much in common? The dark background, asymmetry, sense of downward motion, generous use of negative space? It can be easy to talk about recent shifts in the practice of quilting, "not your grandma's quilts" and all that. But here's a quilter who lived and died before my grandmas were even born, and our quilts have a lot to say to each other. I feel a connection to this unknown maker.
What I think is also really intriguing is that this graphic top quilt predates the modern art movement altogether. That is significant, and a point I will come back around to in a future installment. But for now, just think about this quilter, working generations ago, in a world far less abstract than the one you and I inhabit. Somehow she decided on five columns of red diamonds hanging in black space. How? Why? Kind of fun to think about.