For the first time in my life, I found an art exhibit so enthralling that I returned TWICE to see it. In fact, I have plans to go back a third time. Ooh, the “Quilts and Color” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts makes me happy! Its rainbow blasts are a perfect match for baby, too, as wee ones adore patterns.
What I find particularly moving about these quilts is not just their beauty, however: it’s the history of the women who made them. Many of these works were sewn in the 1800s: a time when women in America couldn’t vote, let alone have the freedoms I so enjoy, from gallivanting alone around the world, to marrying who I choose, to having a well-paid career, to speaking my mind, publicly… frequently.
Further, some of the quilts, including the one featured in every advertisement for this exhibit, were created by African-American women. Having just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Invention of Wings, one concept is fresh in my mind: When women are shackled either mentally or physically, the spirit of expression can still pour out through “everyday” artwork.
Given this, I found observing the other exhibit-goers particularly poignant. Everywhere, gazing at the walls, were women of all ages. Some elderly women held their middle-aged daughters by the hand. Others, like me, strode around with their 30-something friends and fresh new babies.
This meant that at the “Quilts and Color” exhibit, women who lived three long centuries apart swirl together. Did the ladies in the 1800s who stitched these masterpieces ever imagine, as they poured their frustrated dreams into each scrap, that hundreds of years later their work would be on display in one of the leading art museums of the world?
And yet, many of the quilters from this exhibit remain anonymous. Signs read, “American, 1880” or “Amish” or “Mennonite,” but many of the women’s names have evaporated with history.
Let us talk for a moment about Mennonites. I never thought about that religion before this year, but suddenly it has come to my attention that Mennonites love color bursts as much as I do. Apparently, so does the Methodist religion, as seen in the fabulous multicolored “gingerbread cottages” in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard which we discovered last month. Huzzah for color-lovers of the world!
A note about the MFA museum guards at this exhibit: They’re great! When I was struggling to take a photo, more than one offered to help snap it for me. Another offered photography tips, and yet another played a delightful game of peekaboo with my baby. Good stuff from good staff.
So who put together this beautiful quilt exhibit? The collectors are named Pilgrim and Roy, and their private quilt collection actually contains over 2,500 quilts. According to their website, they began their quilt lust in the 1960s whilst working as interior decorators. Since then, they became founding board members of the American Quilter’s Society, and designed the interior of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Sheesh– I didn’t even know we had a quilt museum in America, but now I’m curious to go! I’m also deeply grateful to Pilgrim and Roy for preserving these luscious quilts.
Now, let me pull back my words and let the beauty of the quilts take over. Walk through the “Quilts and Color” exhibit with me, and enjoy!
Now that you’ve seen them, which is YOUR favorite quilt?
If you want to see another amazing Museum of Fine Arts exhibit (also featuring eye-popping color) do click over to my photos from the Chihuly glass world exhibit. Happy peeping!