Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories
November 17 - March 12, 2023
“Contemporary exhibitions of quilts [like Fabric of a Nation] have left the comfort of nostalgia behind for the cacophony of the multivalent.”
-— Art in America
The Skirball Cultural Center announces today additional details of the West Coast debut of the critically acclaimed exhibition Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including seven additional works and four newly recorded oral histories as part of the exhibition audio guide. Spanning five centuries and including nearly fifty textiles, this landmark exhibition celebrates the artistry and vision of a diverse and, in some instances, under-recognized group of creators, and brings to light stories that enrich, deepen, and complicate our understanding of the American experience. The Skirball’s presentation will feature newly displayed works by Sanford Biggers and Los Angeles–based artists Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Joel Otterson, and Ramsess, as well as a moving quilt from its own collection, Ellis Island, which highlights the Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant experience. In the new interactive exhibition Together for Good: Caron Tabb and the Quilting Corner, Caron Tabb’s dramatic work Fabric of Humanity – Repairing My World (2020–present) will be displayed alongside an all-ages community quilt-making activity inspired by Tabb’s work, the result of which will be accessioned into the Skirball’s collection. Tabb’s work and the Quilting Corner are born out of modern-day interpretations of tikkun olam (Hebrew for “repair of the world”), a Jewish concept grounded in social justice and goodwill, touching on the beauty and strength of community. Both exhibitions open November 17, 2022, and run through March 12, 2023.
The quilts on view in Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston were created by women and men, known individuals such as Bisa Butler and Harriet Powers and those yet to be identified, urban and rural makers, and members of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Jewish, Asian American, and LGBTQIA+ communities. Many of the older quilts survived because of their importance to families, the emotions they evoked in those owners, and the stories that were passed down with them. That they still exist is also a tribute to the people, many of them women of color, who helped make and care for these precious objects.
The exhibition explores how quilts have evolved alongside the nation. As the country has changed, so too has the purpose and meaning of quilts. Early on, quilts, as well as woven blankets, were appreciated for their warmth and artistry as decorative bedcovers. By the mid-nineteenth century, quilts were displayed in fairs and other public places, and some makers began to see themselves as textile artists. Today, quilters have expanded the medium to encompass a wide range of techniques, materials, and imagery. Some contemporary artists have used the quilt form to bring attention to social justice issues and to address difficult moments from the nation’s past and present. The works in this exhibition capture the unique capacity quilts have to tell stories and convey a sense of humanity.
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