Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts

by Jim Dittmann
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BY: Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

Like roadmaps, quilts in an exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum this summer reveal places of origin and paths to understanding America’s cultural fabric. “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts,”on view June 12 through August 29, features quilts spanning the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Representing a range of materials, motifs, and techniques, the exhibition’s quilts include traditional early American examples and contemporary sculptural assemblages. 

A quilt-maker’s textile and design choices offer insights into the topography of the artist’s world and place within it. The motif in Nora McKeown Ezell’s “Star Quilt” 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 history of slavery, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction in the Jim Crow South.  

Woven into quilts are threads of history and makers’ orienteering questions: “Where do I fit into this landscape? Where have I been? Where will I go?” Exhibition quilts incorporate wool from suits and military uniforms, cotton, synthetics, silk velvet, and brocade with embroidery. Infused with memory, quilts map out intimate stories and legacies through a handcrafted language of design. 

Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts was organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. Wausau Homes is the presenting sponsor of the summer exhibition; 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness is the summer sponsor. Additional support comes from Jeff and Lori De Lonay, Gwen Gygi, Linda Kocourek, LeeAnn Podruch and David Johnson, and Ron and Mary Retzke. 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.

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