Wednesday, May 11, 2011

White and Red All Over

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At the end of March, the American Folk Art Museum staged an impressive quilt show at the Park Ave Armory.

I doubt I'd be a quilt connoisseur if left to my own devices, but my mother's quilt-enthusiasm rubbed off on me over the past few years. Now I find them kinda interesting, especially when considering the history (of both women and Americana) that's tied up in the art form.

So after learning of this short-lived show, I snuck up to the Armory on my lunch break to check out the scene.

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The venue is pretty cavernous, and windows in the ceiling cast cool shapes on the floorboards. See?

The demographics of quilt show attendees (based on an informal poll I took with my eyes) seemed to skew pretty elderly. That was cool by me, 'cause I can hang with old people. Though I did spot a few younger folks there, including a man I initially mistook for Zach Galifianakis (!!), before realizing it was just another bearded Brooklyn artisan. Le sigh.

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The quilts (all six-hundred and fifty of them) were made of red and white fabric, and most dated to the 19th century, though some were older and some more recent. They hung in swirling, stacked formations throughout the Armory. The curator, in her notes, likened the installation to playing cards tossed in the air, "where they hover weightlessly, seemingly frozen in midair." Yes. I could see that. It was really quite an impressive scene.

The show was titled "Infinite Variety," because although the six-hundred and fifty quilts shared the same simple color scheme, no one quilt was identical to another. (I think there's a snowflake / life metaphor in there somewhere; I'll leave it to you to suss it out.)

In the program for the exhibit, Joanna Semel Rose (owner of these 650 quilts) writes how it all came to be:

"When my husband asked what I would like for my eightieth birthday, I said, "Something I've not seen before and something that would be a gift for New York City."

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And so they dreamed up this exhibit, to display Mrs. Rose's collection in all in one place, all at the same time.

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Joanna further wrote, "As more and more technology expands the world, it narrows mine. But books and paintings and quilts tell me that imagination is alive and well."

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You know what? Walking into the Armory and trying to take in both the enormity and intricacy of the display before me, did seem to waken my oft-idle imagination. It made me wonder, "What other lovely things are possible?"

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Thanks Joanna Semel Rose! Your "wild idea" of a birthday present was indeed a gift to me (as well as lots of old people and a Zach Galifianakis look-alike). Happy belated birthday; I hope many more of your dreams and visions are realized as beautifully as this quilt show. 

2 comments:

Sonja said...

These quilts are amazing! Love this post!

wilybrunette said...

holy smokes. what an impressive collection all together. beautiful photos!

i wish i had been zach g. oh well. next time.