Loving stitches

 

Quilting Blocks and Binding Threads

Indiana State Museum

Through June 15

Americans love their quilts. Since the 1970s when quilts first began appearing on museum walls, the quilt has continued to assume ever-higher status as an art form. Exhibitions such as Gee’s Bend, visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art within the past year, are evidence of the quilt’s status beyond that of homemaker’s icon: Quilts seem to possess a certain power that extends beyond the impetus for their creation.

The Indiana State Museum exhibition Quilting Blocks and Binding Threads offers a look at traditional quilts created for traditional purposes, which is to say, as offerings to loved ones or as acts of generosity. From traditional double wedding ring designs to original contemporary designs, from full-sized to crib-sized variations, these quilts were not created for museum walls: They were made to be used.

The quilts, drawn from the museum’s Pottinger Collection of Amish Quilts, are not about patterns or color, although the creative spirit is alive and well here. They are about giving — a kind of functional art that is rarely seen on museum walls. And yet quilting, which could be viewed as an example of early American modern art, is one of those art forms that both retains its aura as an activity undertaken by women — sometimes in community, sometimes alone — and as an act of creativity for its own sake.

The exhibition numbers 36 quilts, including Amish quilts as well as other expressions of generosity — from a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to a quilt provided by the Riley Hospital Cheer Guild. The exhibition is weighted towards the Amish quilts, dating as far back as the late 19th century with a few more recent examples, offering traditional patterns and their variations with many personal flourishes and hand-stitched names. Overall, the exhibition offers a moment of reflection, a time to ponder the power of human connection. Nothing says nurture like a quilt.

Quilting Blocks and Binding Threads is on view at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., through June 15. The exhibition run includes hands-on activities and demonstrations, plus an opportunity to contribute to the Quilt of Valor for war veterans by creating a quilt block from a provided kit. Find out more by calling 317-232-1637 or visit www.in.gov/ism.

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