June 11, 2014

Modern Quilting Snippets: artist unidentified

I'm going to ask you how old you would guess this quilt is and I want you to look at the photo and think about it and don't peek. The answer is right underneath so really think about it before you read further.

Pieced Quilt
Artist unidentified
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:

Christina Cameli
Portland, Oregon
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.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I saw the little thumb nail picture of the black and red quilt in my Blogger Reading List and clicked on it to come tell you how awesome your quilt was, then you asked how old it was, so I figured it was probably not yours, and, being generous, guessed it was up to 14 years old. How amazing that it is actually 200 years old! I wonder if there is any possibilty of it being some kind of tribal pattern? I would love o know what inspired it, and how well it was received at the time.

Anonymous said...

It's also weird that it appears to have straight line quilting and that the red is still so bright.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gene Black said...

My first thought was "old" but then since you asked, I guessed less than a year. Ha! I overthought it, I suppose.
My grandmother made some quilts that would qualify as "modern" today - except for the quilting on them.
As the saying goes "everything old is new again."

Brenda said...

proves that everything old is new again, or the reverse? both are lovely. thanks for sharing.

myrtovl said...

Both are lovely dear Christina-- the only difference is that the antique one was made from fabrics that the maker happened to have most probably the only ones she had at that time and yours was made by choosing from a large variety so stash...

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I suppose we aren't quite as "modern" as we thought! Both quilts are striking.

MissesStitches said...

I showed both quilts to my hubby. He said the second one is a digital quilt.

Jessica said...

Pensive post, thanks for making us see more than just what's in front of us.

MamaDoc said...

One of the things that I hope come out SOON in the modern quilt movement is an understanding of how similar our aesthetic is to previous quilting styles - nothing annoys me more than when people give lectures as if the modern quilt movement discovered solids, asymmetry, or negative space! Kudos for you for doing some research and hopefully your position in the quilting world will get the word around. I first started quilting in the 1980's drawn in by Amish quilts: bold, graphic, solids, and some asymmetry. That's what I love about modern quiltmaking as well. It makes me super sad that modern quilters have ended up in their own world, and have missed out on appreciating many of the quilts of the past.

Teresa F. said...

Interesting. Be sure to visit my blog and enter the giveaway I'm having.

Nota Donna said...

A most amazing story to report. Seems to support the idea that the best art is genuinely self-expressive ... and therefore may not be bound by its culture.

Post a Comment

I love reading your comments, thank you for coming by!