Pictorial Quilt: Quilting as Resistance and Memory.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Quilting is part of the textile industry of spinning, weaving, sowing, and tapestry making that dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. It’s predominantly considered “women’s work” because of the nature of the materials used to make these objects, and therefore, has also always been considered “low art.” Quilting was brought to the America’s by the Colonialists and Africans through the slave trade. It was a skill that was handed down from mother to daughter, and it is work that is done both alone and in collaboration with other women.
Quilt making in the Southern states was a form of economy, as it kept people warm and insulated their homes. It was also a form of decoration and political protest. In the early America’s, many quilts were made out of anything women could get their hands on, and this is where the term patchwork quilt comes from. To tell a unique story of their own, women would make patchwork quilts from scraps of fabric, and pieced them together in a planned design, abstract shape, or free form. It’s important to note, quilting is historically synonymous with storytelling, and as you read about Harriet Powers (1836 – — 1910) in The Guerrilla Girls and online, you will learn that she drew from biblical stories, folk tales, and astronomical phenomena and “stitched these stories and events into the quits she made that have now become her life’s record” (p. 54, 1998)
Examples of Quilt as Political Documents
Harriet Powers, Bible Quilt, 1885 – 1886: In addition to sewing under the rule of the master, slaves made quilts for personal use that often have elements of African cosmology and mythology. Harriet Powers quilts have sources from oral traditions including local legends, biblical tales, and accounts of astronomical occurrences. Harriet Powers, Pictorial Quilt, 1895 – 1898
The Leonid Meteor Shower of 1833: This event had a direct connection to the quilting of
This assignment is meant to be a contemporary version of quilt making, where you take a position in your quilt, and discuss, through images, the events and experiences that shape the lives of women. Obviously you may not want to sew pieces of fabric together (though you might!) — but you are free to imagine contemporary versions of quilts–either using contemporary materials that you piece together, or using techniques of digital collage, choosing images and them arranging them in such a way as to tell a story. You’ve seen in the reading examples of quilts that advocate for the freeing of slaves; in recent years, we saw the great impact of the AIDS Quilt, which strove to include one quilt-piece for every person killed by HIV/AIDS.
Step One. In this assignment, you are to piece together your own quilt , asking yourself questions such as, what would a quilt be about today and what kind of story would she tell about a specific contemporary, controversial political issue relating to the lives of women?
Keeping in mind what we have been learning about differences among women (in terms of class, race, sexuality, religion, etc.) be sure you think about:
1. the way your “issue” affects different women’s lives in different ways
2. your audience for this piece — if you are making an argument through your quilt, who are you trying to convince?
Step Two. Create your quilt. Remember, to make their work many quilters recycled what they already had, so please use papers or materials of different colors and textures, markers, colored pencils, and collage materials, including magazines, newspapers, or images from the Internet. Please put the title of your quilt, as well as the name and date, in the first cell or panel.
Step Three. Post a picture of your quilt onto your e-portfolio with the tag quilt.
Last Step. After posting the quilt on your blog please write a 100 word reflection where you address questions one and two above (that is, what your quilt is ‘about’, what you tried to send, what audience you were addressing — and what you hope someone would “do” as a consequence of understanding the political import of your quilt.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT: You may post a “review” of one classmate’s quilt project. Choose a quilt that you find interesting (at least!), or provocative, or powerful. Explain how you think the quilt is effective in presenting its position to you, as a spectator of this art work. How did seeing and ‘reading’ the quilt change your view of the issue it takes up? For details on doing this extra credit assignment, go to ANGEL, Lesson 5. You will see a drop box there with more instructions.
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