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Jazz Quilts at the American Folk Art Museum's Branch Location at Lincoln Square
Satchmo, Bisa Butler, Hillside, New Jersey, 2006. Machine-appliquÈd and -quilted cotton, silk, satin, and poly blends, 33 x 41 " Collection of the artist. Photo by Robert Geisler.

NEW YORK, NY.- Jazz Quilts take center stage in the exhibition Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition—Contemporary African American Quilts at the American Folk Art Museum's Branch Location at 2 Lincoln Square. These contemporary quilts by members of the Women of Color Quilters Network are vibrant riffs inspired by jazz music. Organized by renowned quilt artist Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder and coordinator of the Women of Color Quilters Network, the sixty-four quilts by fifty-five quilt artists (including four men) will be on view in two back-to-back presentations from March 24 to June 14 and June 20 to August 23, 2009.

Focusing on quilts inspired by the music, viewers are able to see, hear, and feel jazz through these textiles. As a group, the quilts illustrate the various styles and techniques in which multiple histories, traditions, and inspirations are expressed. Some quiltmakers pay homage to their favorite musicians, such as Satchmo, a portrait of the great Louis Armstrong, by Bisa Butler and Favorite Things by Adriene Cruz that captures the intensity of John Coltane's music. In the second presentation Alice Beasley honors Miles Davis in her quilt Miles Ahead and Peggy Hartwell salutes Weldon Irvine, jazz artist, lyricist, and teacher in Jamminí-Passing It On: Celebrating the Life of Weldon Irvine.

Others interpret their favorite song. Kyra Hicks in her quilt He Played Me...and Sang in My Ear muses on the piano and violin notes of Regina Carter's "Reflections" and how they meshed with her life. Strange Fruit by Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, on view in the first presentation, and Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday by Dr. Edward Bostick, in the second part, refer to the power of Billie Holiday and the emotional impact of her signature song. Also in part two, well-known New York quilt artist Michael Cummings celebrates the great female jazz singers in Satin Doll. Some quilts reflect on the role jazz has played historically in the formation of African American identity. In Marla Jackson's quilt Life in Jazz she depicts the contrast between the Cotton Club in New York City and the 18th & Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Missouri, and how it reveals aspects of African American life. Second Line King by Denise Campbell, seen in the second installation, commemorates family, culture, and the Great Migration of the 20th century from the South to the North.

The exhibition examines the role that faith plays in the act of creativity. The Somber Farewell Before the Joyful Band Playing and Dancing by Wendell George Brown describes the jazz funeral from the somber march to the grave to the festive outburst celebrating the deceased's transition into eternal life.

Quilt scholarship over the last thirty years has shown an interest in quilts produced by African American women. Research was initially focused on quilt design as an expression of African heritage. The history of African American quilts that emerged thus elevated style over the individual maker and her own experience. More recent examinations stand as correctives to this scholarly discourse.

Publications such as Cuesta Benberry's Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts demonstrates the enduring contribution of African American quiltmakers to the history of American quiltmaking. She and other scholars argue for the exploration of these quilts as expressions of creative individuals rather than those of an anonymous, monolithic group. Textural Rhythms steps into this discourse with a specific focus on quilts inspired by the pulsating rhythms and syncopation that unites both artistic forms, music and textiles. With the dynamic use of vibrant color and imaginative fabrics the quilt artists capture in intricate appliquÈ, complex piecing, and sophisticated montage the bonding of the two worlds.

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