Reopening to visitors, “Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories” shares life experiences of women of the West
The Eiteljorg exhibition Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories has been extended to Jan. 3, 2021.
When the new exhibition Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories opened in early March, it made a big splash with art and history lovers, especially with fans of fiber art and quilting. The exhibition focuses on telling stories of the lives of women from diverse backgrounds in the American West, using the historic quilts they created as the medium for that storytelling. The exhibition was the talk of online quilter groups, and many quilting enthusiasts made a point to visit the Eiteljorg specifically to experience it.
But soon after the exhibition began, the Eiteljorg was forced to hit the “pause” button and close the museum building temporarily due to public health orders. During the hiatus, museum staff launched an online version of Quilts at Eiteljorg.org/AtHome featuring videos with curator Johanna M. Blume, and interest in the exhibition has continued to grow.
With three months of pent-up demand, Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories again can be enjoyed by visitors. Inside the gallery, visitors learn that historic quilts are far more than utilitarian bedcoverings sewn for warmth on a cold prairie. Instead, quilts serve as a visual record of women’s lives in the West, particularly during times and circumstances when women’s stories were not often told in written records. With examples of quilts from the early 1800s to the present, the exhibition conveys how women expressed themselves using fabric, thread and meticulous care to create meaningful and moving works.
“Sometimes the quilts women make are to advocate for a political idea or to raise funds for a political cause,” Blume said. “Sometimes a quilt is made for a dear family member, or in a way that brings a community together, or to forge bonds of friendship between women. And some quilts are made to express unique aspects of a woman’s identity.”
Mary Etta Crow
Log Cabin Quilt, ca. 1840-1849
Wool, synthetic fabrics, velvet, sateen binding
Loan courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society, 1965.37.1
The exhibition is organized into three themes: family, friends and personal relationships; ethnic and regional identity; and political agency and power. Quilts by diverse women artists who are African American, Native American, Latino American and Asian American who utilize a variety of styles and traditions are represented — featuring dazzling patterns and thought-provoking messages that will spark conversations. An important example is the quilt Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Since 1492 by Susan Hudson (Navajo).
Many of the one-of-a-kind quilts in the Eiteljorg exhibition are on loan from other institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West, the International Quilt Museum and the state historical museums of Alaska, Arizona, Nebraska and Washington State. The gallery includes a Community Corner with a rotating group of fabric art pieces and small quilts created by local quilters from central Indiana, sharing their own stories.
Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories is part of the Eiteljorg’s larger theme of exhibitions and programs in 2020-21, Honoring Women, that celebrates the centennial of women attaining the right to vote.
Originally, Quilts was scheduled to be open through Aug. 9, but because of the interruption, the Eiteljorg has extended the exhibition another five months, until Jan. 3, 2021, to give the public more opportunity to experience it. Some Quilts-related public events previously scheduled for the spring are postponed to the summer and fall; see the museum’s events calendar for details. Additional public programs may be added, check www.eiteljorg.org for the latest. The exhibition is included with regular museum admission.
Un Barrio, 2016
Loan courtesy of the artist
Online extra: Watch the WISH-TV8 segment about Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories at this link: https://bit.ly/3cBg9pP
QUILTS: UNCOVERING WOMEN’S STORIES
CONTINUING THROUGH JAN 3, 2021
Eiteljorg Museum, Special Exhibitions Gallery
Margot L. Eccles Arts & Culture Fund
Chase Private Client
Citizens Energy Group
Don Hinds Ford
Indiana Arts Commission
Arts Council of Indianapolis
With Additional Support From:
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Storyteller magazine.