June 12 – August 29, 2021
Quilts are a narrative art form, featuring themes that are political, spiritual, communal, and commemorative. Infused with history and memory, quilts map out intimate stories and legacies through a handcrafted language of design. Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts is an invitation to read quilts as maps, tracing the paths of individual histories that illuminate larger historic events and cultural trends. Spanning the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, this insightful and engaging exhibition presents eighteen quilts from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The quilts represent a range of materials, motifs, and techniques, including traditional early American examples and contemporary sculptural assemblages. Handstitched Worlds demonstrates how this often overlooked medium balances creativity with tradition and individuality with collective zeitgeist. A visible kinship between quilt-making and cartography is evident, from seams and roadways to quilt blocks and city blocks. The choice of fabric and design reveals insights into the topography of a quilt maker’s world and that individual’s place within it. The motif in Nora Ezell’s Star Quilt, for example, evokes the celestial navigation used by slaves on the Underground Railroad. The quilt’s traditional eight-pointed Star of Hope pattern is drawn from the artist’s knowledge of the legacy of slavery, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction in the Jim Crow South. Like roadmaps, these unique artworks offer paths to a deeper understanding of America’s cultural fabric.
Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts was organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.
Thanks to the members, donors, grantors, and sponsors who support exhibition and programs. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds. Support for hands-on art-making supplies comes from Wilmington Trust and the M&T Charitable Foundation.