This fall, the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, will be one of only two museums in the United States to host a stellar textile exhibition of 35 historical and contemporary quilts with trans-Atlantic ties.
The exhibition is titled, Blanket Statements: New Quilts by Kaffe Fassett and Historical Quilts from the Collection of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, UK and is on loan from the Quilter’s Guild in York, England. Exhibited there this summer as Ancestral Gifts, the show is a exploration of patchwork and quilting art through historical, contemporary, and mixed-media patchwork pieces.
Blanket Statements features twenty new patchwork designs by the American-born, internationally known textile artist Kaffe Fassett, created in response to fifteen historical quilts, dating from 1780 to 1949, which he selected from the Quilter’s Guild collection. Fassett is one of the most prolific and renowned patchwork artists of his time, garnering praise for revolutionizing quilt making with his bold and innovative use of vibrant color. His philosophy has inspired quilters and patchwork artists around the word to defy traditional quilting conventions and to embrace and explore color more fully. Fassett also possesses a keen eye for design; his selection of the historical quilts and his stunning responses to them reflect the two sensibilities in harmony.
Although Blanket Statements comes to the Michener from the United Kingdom, it has strong local connections: three of Kaffe’s new designs were interpreted by Bucks County-based artisans, Judy Baldwin, Corienne Kramer, and Liza Lucy. It was Liza Lucy who inspired Fassett to take up patchwork in the 1990s—at the time, he was known primarily as a knitwear designer—and who collaborated with Fassett on his first book, Glorious Patchwork. Published in 1997, Glorious Patchwork was photographed on location at the Fonthill Mansion in Doylestown.
Visitors who might not be attracted to textiles initially will find inspiration in the breathtaking color Fassett employs in his designs, as well as similarities in patchwork’s geometric patterning to color field painting and contemporary graphic design. To further explore patchwork, the museum will also have on display a concurrent exhibition, Pattern Pieces, which will examine pattern, shape, and color as it relates to quilts as both utilitarian and artistic objects. Pattern Pieces features work by a number of the Delaware Valley region’s contemporary artists: Philadelphia-based Virgil Marti, who often incorporates textiles and quilting in his mixed-media pieces; collages by James A. Michener (yes, that James A. Michener); New Jersey artist Laura Petrovich-Cheney, who fashions wooden quilts made from salvaged materials gathered in the wake of Superstorm Sandy; and Bucks County’s own Alan Goldstein, whose featured patterned paintings and installations were, in part, inspired by quilting.
Together, Blanket Statements and Pattern Pieces offer a heady—giddy, even—celebration patchwork art in all its forms, and as interpreted by artists with diverse perspectives working in a wide variety of media. Related exhibition programming include a patchwork workshop led by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Lucy; a creative knitting workshop with Brandon Mably; a gallery talk and book signing with Fassett and Michener chief curator Kirsten M. Jensen, and a guest lecture on English and American quilts by Jane Lury, a renowned quilt collector. Blanket Statements will be on view at the Michener 14th November 2015 to 21st February 2016, and will travel to the San Jose Quilt Museum in the spring. As the Quilter’s Guild has closed its gallery, this may be the only opportunity to see the historical pieces from its collection. You won’t want to miss it.
Kaffe Fassett (b. 1937) at the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, England, May 2015. Photograph by Tony Bartholomew, Courtesy of the Quilter’s Guild Collection.
Kaffe Fassett installation detail at the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, England, May 2015. Photograph by Tony Bartholomew, Courtesy of the Quilter’s Guild Collection. (below)