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Newark Museum Patchwork exhibition now open
Crib or child’s quilt, early 2004-2005. Bibijan Ibrahimsahib, Kendalgri, India. Cotton, 37”H x 49”W. Purchase 2006 The Members’ Fund 2006.32.2

NEWARK, N.J.- Quilts are considered by many to be one of America ’s great indigenous folk-art forms, but patchwork also has a rich and important place in other parts of the world as demonstrated in a pair of exhibitions opening September 14 at the Newark Museum.

Since purchasing its first quilt in 1918, the Newark Museum has amassed one of the most comprehensive quilt collections in the nation. Drawing 30 magnificent quilts, half by New Jersey artisans, from its rich holdings of more than 150 works, the Museum will showcase the art form in its upcoming feature exhibition, Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art, September 14 through December 31, 2011. A broader world view of the art form is examined in a small accompanying exhibition entitled The Global Art of Patchwork: Asia and Africa . As is traditional with all major Newark Museum exhibitions, a rich and diverse schedule of educational programs and activities are planned throughout the run of the exhibition.

Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art explores the evolution of quilts from those created for functional use in the 19th century to breathtaking works of art intended only for display. Woven throughout the exhibition are the stories associated with each quilt, reminding the visitor of the all-important human connection. The exhibition also demonstrates the historical importance of quilts as an “acceptable” means of creative and communal expression during times when women had no public voice and few legal rights.

Patchwork quilts, many of which have never been on public view, range from simple graphic designs pieced together from small geometric patches of silk, wool or cotton, to complex narratives filled with appliqué motifs and embroidered enrichment.

“Patchwork offers a rare opportunity for museum goers to view these stylistically and historically important works,” said Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts Collection, and Curator of Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art. “This exhibition is a must for those who love textiles, both for their artistic beauty and exquisite craftsmanship. The accompanying exhibition, which takes a global look at the art of patchwork, provides an enriching perspective made possible by the significant global holdings of the Newark Museum .”

Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art is presented in four sections: Making Quilts, The Social Fabric of Quilts, Quilted Memories, and Contemporary Quilts / Cultural Adaptations.
Making Quilts traces the evolution of quilt making from the early 19th century, when they were made by hand, through the Industrial Revolution and the advent of the sewing machine, to present day. Featured in this section is Wild Goose Chase (1800-1830), the initial acquisition of the Museum’s collection. Produced from homespun wool, this popular pattern of triangular patches evokes the image of flying geese.

The long-standing tradition of quilting requires patience, creativity and skill and usually takes place at a communal or family gathering. The Social Fabric of Quilts section explores the familial and communal occasions at which quilts are often created. During the 19th century, quilts were created as part of a new bride’s hope chest. Often, women also created quilts as a means of expressing their political views.

From the 19th century to the present day, a handmade quilt is a highly-valued and cherished gift. Quilted Memories exhibits examples of quilts that uniquely memorialize historic and family events for posterity. During the 19th century, the desire to commemorate and memorialize major events in fluenced the popularity of album quilts. Each block in the album quilt reflected a memory and was signed by one or more people who helped create the block.

The Hurley Family Album, exhibited publically for the first time, is one of the Museum’s most important recent acquisitions. Made in 1867 in Wall Township , New Jersey , by the members of a prominent farming family, this is the finest example of its type known today, according to Dietz.

The final section of the exhibition, Contemporary Quilts / Cultural Adaptation, showcases the modern day quiltings that are of ten created and viewed as works of art. The most recent acquisition, from 2006, is entitled Midtown Direct, made by Teresa Barkley, a Maplewood resident, who started working on the quilt in 1998. This quilt commemorated the introduction of direct New Jersey Transit train service into Manhattan , an event that transformed New Jersey ’s suburbs and had a great impact on the artist’s own daily commute into New York . Since the events of September 11, 2001, the quilt has taken on a darker aspect, becoming a memorial to the World Trade Center towers that had formed part of every New Jersey Transit commuter’s daily life.

Significant contributions and in fluences made by African-Americans are now being documented as part of the development of the quilt as a distinctly American folk expression, Dietz said. Research shows that some quilt patterns can be traced back to ancestral African textile design. For example, the striking syncopated design in Tied Center Medallion quilt made by an unknown African-American woman in Kansas in the 1920s bears an uncanny similarity of modern geometric painting of the same period and comes from a quilting tradition largely outside of the Euro-American aesthetic.

The accompanying exhibition, The Global Art of Patchwork: Africa and Asia features textile-related patchwork traditions outside the world of quilts, including works from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana , Japan , Korea , India , Nigeria , Sudan and Tibet . Drawn from the Newark Museum ’s broad collections, the exhibition offers a global perspective for the art of patchwork textiles.

Newark Museum | Patchwork |

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