I was reading the New York Times Magazine on March 27th and spotted a great looking ad for an exhibit of red quilts at the Armory on 67th and Park in New York. The photos were colorful and I thought it might be interesting to see 650 quilts all at once. So off I went. It was a simply MAGICAL experience!
A little history first. Johanna Rose has been collecting quilts for a long time. When her husband asked what she wanted for her 80th birthday she requested something she has not seen before and something that would be a gift for New York City. She thought that seeing all of her quilts at one time would be an ideal gift. And, what a gift it was for me and the thousands of people who attended the exhibit.
Mrs. Rose did not set out to be a collector. She liked to find treasures and in the 50’s one could buy quilts at flea markets for five and ten dollars. And buy she did. It wasn’t until recently that she realized that she owned over 1,000 quilts prized for their graphic quality and originality. These will eventually become part of the collections at the Museum of American Folk Art.
As it says in the introductory brochure, the idea of hundreds of quilts is impressive in the abstract. In actuality, it is an impressive and immersive experience visually and physically. The installation magnified the magnitude of the collection. It looked as if the quilts were tossed into the space where they hung weightlessly in midair.
Red and white has been a classic color scheme since the early 19th century. The combination of colors is deceptively simple; the colorfastness and reliability of the Turkey red dye which was derived from the madder root and simple white cotton. Together they create an amazing geometry in imaginative combinations of rectangles, diamonds, triangles and circles. The variety of designs were limited only by the imagination of the quiltmakers. They often had great names like Drunkard’s Path, Sawtooth, and Schoolhouse. It was simply the art of personal expression of mostly unidentified women.
While my iPhone pictures do not give the exhibit justice, I hope you get a flavor of what I found so enchanting. I found many patterns that would make really great mosaic floors. So keep your eyes out for new collections form Waterworks inspired by Mrs. Rose’s quilts.
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