Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple and Unique

Tied Stars - Maker Unknown
United States 1900-1940
Cotton and Cotton and Wool Embroidery
Gift of Mary and Al Shads to American Folk Art Museum

My friend Liz Anderson sent me the image of this wonderful quilt from Super Stars: Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum which will be on view until the end of December. I recently posted my completed Dots piece and Liz thought I might enjoy seeing this work. She was correct.

Last Christmas I was given a copy of Jonathan Holstein's book: Abstract Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibition. I had never seen this book and I was not aware of the show at the Whitney where these pieces were presented. (I find that hard to fathom but think it is wonderful. You can go here to read more.) In the book there is a piece titled Crazy which is one of my favorites. The piece is constructed like a crazy quilt but the quilt is essentially all white. The shapes which are pieced into the blocks which makeup the quilt are outlined with a sort of cross-stitch in brown or perhaps a dark red. The technique is a strangely sophisticated way to handle a very simple and potentially dull collection of materials. How wonderful. A nice demonstration of someone thinking outside the box.

Tied Stars - detail

I see Tied Stars in somewhat the same way. The maker employed unique thinking to create an interesting work from simple materials. I have no way of knowing of what spurred the idea of using the two shades of yellow to create a star pattern with the nubs of the knots which hold the quilt together. The stars are hard to see in the photographs but you can go the AFAM site and see a different picture. Many times the knots for tied quilts are arranged in grids or rows. I am confident this application of knots took much longer to do than the more usual rows as it had to be designed and marked and there are many more knots than is required to simply hold the layers of fabric together. This quilt-maker choose to make a statement.

The plaque next to the quilt at the museum said: The stars in this unusual bedcover are tied rather than pieced or appliqued. The pointillist effect of this technique creates a diffuse Milky Way when seen up close. At a distance the stars resolve into their defined forms.

It touches me to see the time that was invested in this work. It impresses me that the maker found a way to use this very intense red fabric. I love the hide and seek of the star pattern. I love the texture. If it was ever actually used as a bed quilt I bet it was fun to sleep under. I bet it vibrated. I know anyone sleeping under this had to sneak a hand out and stroke the little star nubs.

This work is a nice reminder that we don't need everything in the world to make art and ideas will always carry the day. Thank you Liz.

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  1. Your welcome Terry. Liz

  2. What a stunning piece! Just discovered your blog via mags ramsay and delighting in your amazing work :)

  3. Thank you Lisette! I've been busy on other things this week but hope to work on it again today. I appreciate your support and hope you'll visit again. Best, T