Quilting: Telling Our Stories Through Patterns & Purpose
January 23rd, 2020 - May 9th, 2020 / AACC Gallery
African American quilting is an artform through which generations of black women have crafted a language of community and kinship, resistance and freedom, creativity and joy, individuality and sisterhood.
Under the oppressive conditions of slavery, black women transformed scraps and discarded rags into works of usable art. Improvisationally weaving together African and Euro-American design traditions, African American quilt makers helped to reshape the oppressive conditions of their lives. Black women’s antebellum quilts were magnificent household artifacts that enveloped their living quarters with warmth and beauty, told and preserved family stories, and at their most subversive, pointed the way to freedom.
After the Civil War, the artistry of quilting was passed down through intergenerational networks of black women, and in the 20th and 21st centuries quilting has thrived through the establishment of quilting collectives across the country intent on preserving and revitalizing this craft tradition. Once created primarily for “everyday use,” today quilts created by African American women serve as sites of individual and community memory, political commentary, and artistic exploration.
When I was a child growing up in Greenville South Carolina, and Grandmomma could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain, and we did not freeze. Instead, she took pieces of old cloth—patches—wool, silk, gaberdeen [sic], crockersack—only patches, barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture.