Infinite Variety: Red & White Quilt Exhibit

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It’s not often that an experience leaves me speechless. But the recent exhibit
“Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” in New York City was an exception.

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I’ve known for a while that I wanted to see this exhibit, but I didn’t completely understand its importance until I stood in the midst of it.
There are no words to describe a 55,000-square-foot space filled floor to ceiling with 651 quilts spanning 300 years and every technique in the book.

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On the exhibit’s first day (Friday, March 25) the feeling in this space was reverential—almost as if I was entering a cathedral. There was nothing to do but look, and look, and look some more. This was not just another quilt show hung in rows of pipe and drape.

 

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This installation was designed by the world-class design firm Thinc Design so that the quilts were the stars of the show while also clearly being part of a larger cast of characters: a spotlight on each and every quilt, symbolic lines and shapes in which the quilts were hung, an ingenius lightweight hanging system, a gift shop and cafe, and generous curving benches from which to gaze, at our leisure.

 

It wasn’t an exhibit so much as an experience.
I went back on another day and spent many more hours; some visitors went back every day, six days straight.
It pulled on my heartstrings. I didn’t want to leave.

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In a lecture on Friday evening, I learned about Tom Hennes and the folks at Thinc Design, about Joanna Rose who owns all of the quilts, and a bit about the quilts themselves. Guest curator Elizabeth Warren said that the quilts in general are not “museum quality” pieces but are quilts of the common man. Indeed a large part of the experience was the sheer magnitude of the collection. One hundred quilts is a very nice display. Two hundred is outstanding. But six hundred and fifty-one quilts—is just astounding!

 

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I haven’t cropped the top of these photos; I wanted you to see that every quilt’s backdrop was hundreds more red and white quilts.

 

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The great majority of the quilts were hand quilted.
Everywhere I looked there was exquisite quilting to be enjoyed,

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piecing at which to marvel,

 

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a design sense to admire.

My response to this experience has been to begin planning a red and white quilt of my own. It will be hand quilted.

I think it’s likely we’ll see a resurgence of red and white in quilt shows at all levels.

I am so glad I didn’t miss this event. I will never be quite the same.

 

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You can experience more of the exhibit with these online resources:

The New York Times story

CNN story

Martha Stewart’s story in video

American Folk Art Museum‘s sponsorship, story and Facebook page

flickr.com using the tag #650quilts

And definitely don’t miss this one: Thinc Design’s video of hanging the exhibit in time-lapse on youtube.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Diane Harris

I'm Interactive Editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I've been writing pattern instructions and product reviews, and doing a host of other tasks necessary to help produce a national pattern magazine. Now I work remotely from rural Nebraska to generate some of our online content. I manage the QM Scrap Squad, our blog tours and our Quilt-Alongs. I have one of the best jobs in the world.
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4 Responses to Infinite Variety: Red & White Quilt Exhibit

  1. Pingback: Art Quilt Gallery•NYC - Quiltmaker Magazine - Quilters Club of America

  2. Pingback: Art Quilt Gallery•NYC | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  3. Diane Harris says:

    It sure would be fun to attend your red and white exhibit next year, Linda! It was good to meet you too, and I hope our paths will cross again.

  4. Like you, l was moved by this exhibit. Randi and l visited on 5 occasions, and l still could have gone back for more. It was also a pleasure to meet you at the Russian Tea Rooms. We are planning to hold our own Red And White Exhibit next year at Quilts In The Barn.

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