Newport Art Museum

Newport, RI



Following the Thread: Contemporary and Historic Rhode Island Quilts


Opening on September 23, "Following the Thread: Contemporary and Historic Rhode Island Quilts" features the work of sixteen contemporary Rhode Island quilt artists, as well as several historically significant quilts. The exhibition will continue through December 31, 2000. (left: Michele Leavitt, Fabric of Life, 2000)

The theme of the exhibition revolves around stories, whether narrative or conceptual, whimsical or tragic. 2000 pieces of fabric went into Marie Thurston's vibrant millennium quilt, Grand Finale. Fragile, by Ann Confone, is an allegory showing the fragility of the human spirit, depicted through the simple symbols of fruit. American Nightmare, by Margaret Townsend, dramatically suggests the threat of violence in the family. In contrast, Michele Leavitt takes a humorous, yet incisive look at genetic engineering, in her Fabric of Life, with its "jeans" and "genes" interplay. Traditional techniques of piecing and appliqué are augmented by embellishments and hand-painting in these modern works. These quilt artists are building upon an art form that has existed for over two hundred years in the United States. (right: Frances Moria Prentice Palmer (1828-1906), Crazy Quilt, 1885, Newport Art Museum, 997.1.3, Gift of Cynthia McCaw Palmer, in honor of the Palmer women. Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Quilt Project)

Quilting was a creative outlet for women in the nineteenth century America. The spheres of home and family inspired their work that took the form of bridal quilts, baby quilts, friendship quilts and mourning quilts. The Newport Art Museum is privileged to have in its collection six late nineteenth century crazy quilts gifted by Cynthia McCaw Palmer, in honor of the Palmer women. Two of these works will be included in the exhibition. Their makers had access to beautiful, bright silks, not typical of other more subdued works of the period. In contrast to the glorious disarray of these quilts, those featuring the ordered patterns of "streak of lightening," "ocean waves," and "zig-zag" will show how nineteenth century women created abstract designs that relate to modern art. (left: Margaret Townsend, American Nightmare, 87 x 56 inches)

The exhibition has been organized by Curator Nancy Whipple Grinnell and Tora Sterregaard, a quilt maker from Connecticut and a graduate student in textile conservation from the University of Rhode Island, Several of the historical quilts are included in the Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project, organized at URI. (left: Barbara W. Barber, The Secret Place, 43 x 50 inches, 1996)

One component to the exhibition will include a display of part of the AIDS Quilt and a story quilt made by students at the Pennfield School. In addition representatives of the various Rhode Island quilting guilds will work to complete a commemorative quilt on the Challenger disaster, made by Newport quilter Edna Seaforth.

Read more about the Newport Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/4/11

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