The Art of the Quilt
Spring 2010: AMST 499: Art of the Quilt Bernard L. Herman Wednesdays, 3:30-6:00 Center for the Study of the American South Love House and Hutchins Forum
Office: 329 Greenlaw Hall Hours: Tuesday 11:00-12:30; Wednesday 1:00-2:30, and by by appointment
Since the turn of millennium in 2000, industry estimates (the type of information manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers rely on for business decisions) consistently place the number of quiltmakers in the United States at 20,000,000 and commerce of quiltmaking (excluding buying and selling quilts) in excess of $2,000,000,000. Our course begins with a simple question: how can so many Americans be engaged in an aspect of artistic production about which the rest of us know so little? Art of the Quilt examines the range and variety of quilts through contexts of design, making, and reception. Our topics include quilt types (for example, Baltimore album quilts from the early 1800s), contemporary art quilts, quilt "spaces" (the practices of design, spiritual praise, and display surrounding the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama), and the politics of quilts in history and art. the class will also develop research projects around the digital collections of The Alliance for American Quilts including the 1,000 full text interviews in the Quilters' Save Our Stories project. Course Requirements Discussion. Because the success our seminar relies heavily on class discussion and debate, everyone needs to be fully prepared. This includes completing all the assigned readings and coming to class prepared for critical and creative conversation. Prepare for class each week by posting at least two questions on our discussion board and being prepared to introduce them for the consideration of the group. 10% Quilt of the week. Everyone selects a quilt as part of the class discussion. There are myriad websites and publications with images of quilts that relate to our topics. You are also strongly encouraged to use a quilt you own or one borrowed from family or friends. Simply photograph it front and back along with details about size, materials, and construction. The quilts we choose will serve as our touchstone objects and form the core of our classroom discussions. 10% Quilter’s Save Our Stories Interview. The living voice of the quilt is remarkable in its vibrancy, diversity, and intensity. Drawing on the guidelines of The Alliance for American Quilts’s Quilters’ Save Our Stories project, identify a quiltmaker and conduct, transcribe, and edit one interview. The quiltmaker can be a family member or a friend. They can represent any aspect of the quilting world: traditional, studio art, guild member, etc. In fact, if you do not know a quiltmaker, it will be easy enough to meet a person to interview at a local quilt shop. For directions on planning an interview the Alliance offers a free manual: http://www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/qsos/manual.php. The manual contains a full range of useful advice as well as quadrant questions and permission forms. 25% Research Project. Everyone is required to undertake an original research project on any aspect of quilt history that captures her or his imagination. The research project should be based on primary research (objects, interviews, period sources) and draw on secondary sources (published histories and collections) for supporting materials and arguments. You could address, for example, creativity as critical process through the study of a single maker and her or his work. Or, you might look at the history of the reception of Amish quilts in the museums and collections. The research project must demonstrate the following: 1) your ability to undertake original research, 2) your ability to formulate a critical argument or interpretation, 3) and your ability to articulate your argument with clarity and elegance. Before you begin your research project, you must submit a one-page proposal and schedule a tutorial. Our conversation, based on your proposal, is intended to help you focus your work in terms of scope, resources, and outcome. Folks always ask, “How long should it be?” This is among my least favorite questions, but here’s an answer. First, remember the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat: “Which way ought I to go from here?” asked Alice. “It depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” replied the Cat. Second, 15-20 pages (no more than 25) plus notes, illustrations, and captions. 35% Class Presentation. Your research project will be presented to the seminar in the form of a professional symposium-style paper. The presentation should be well-crafted and practiced. (Folks who go first receive the benefit of not being as far along in their research and writing.) The presentation should run 18 to 20 minutes without tangents or digressions. Use PowerPoint for your images. All slides should be captioned and include the image source, Do not use slides that contain text you are reading. The presentation provides an invaluable opportunity for responses and suggestions from the seminar. Following the presentation plan to meet with me for a conversation on revisions for the Research project paper. 20% Readings. All readings will be placed on our BlackBoard site or can be found through various UNC Library e-journals and Project Muse. I strongly encourage the purchase of Robert Shaw’s just published American Quilts. I reviewed this for the library journal CHOICE as follows: A rich and beautifully crafted introduction to American quilts from the colonial period to the present, Robert Shaw’s American Quilts offers an engaging and sophisticated synthesis for readers who wish to learn about the art of the quilt in its many contexts. Shaw’s introduction neatly sets the stage for fourteen chapters, each focused on an aspect of the quilting arts associated with a given time period. His writing strategy effectively lends contextual clarity to an art form marked by extraordinary diversity. “The Golden Age of Appliqué, 1840-1860,” for example, incorporates a discussion of Westward Expansion while “The Great Revival, 1970-2000” links quiltmaking to the larger contexts of the Bicentennial, heritage studies, and shifts in the contemporary art world. Full color illustrations, individual quilt histories, bibliography, and guide to collections render American Quilts a book of exceptional utility as a starting point for teaching, design, and research. Ultimately, it is Shaw’s narrative that makes this book an enduring work. Readers new to the field will discover the quilt as a remarkable art form; readers knowledgeable in histories of the quilt will discover fresh information and insight. Strongly recommended for all collections.
Key websites: The Alliance for American Quilts: http://www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/ American Quilt Studies Group: http://www.americanquiltstudygroup.org/ Studio Art Quilt Association: http://www.saqa.com/ International Quilt Study Center & Museum: http://www.quiltstudy.org/
AMST 499: Art of the Quilt January 13. Introduction. Quilt Histories. January 20. Documenting Quilts/Quilts as Objects • Linda Eaton, “the bedspread gets along finely: making quilts in early america,” in Quilts in a Material World (2007), 58-83. • Nao Nomura and Janneken Smucker, “From Fibers to Fieldwork: A Multifacted Approach to Re-Examining Amish Quilts,” Uncoverings (2006), 123-155. • Visit http://www.quiltindex.org/index.php and review the Quilt Index and its contents. January 27. Documenting Quiltmakers: the Quilters’ Save Our Stories Project • Linda Eaton, “the hurry of work: the role of quilts in women’s lives” in Quilts in a Material World (2007), 32-57. • Marsha L. MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst, To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions (1997), 3-92. • Visit http://www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/qsos/ and review the site contents and the Manual compiled for grassroots work. Guest Interview: Penny Rich February 3. Handwork/Mindwork • Jean Ray Laury, Quilts and Coverlets: A Contemporary Approach (1970), 8-17. • Michael James, The Quiltmaker’s Handbook (1978), 1-84. • Valerie Hearder, Beyond the Horizon: Small Landscape Appliqué (1995), 7-29 Guest Marjorie Freeman [tba] February 10. Quilts as Art • Susan E. Bernick, “A Quilt Is an Art Object when It Stands Up like a Man,” In Cheryl B. Torsney and Judy Elsley, Quilt Culture: Tracing the Pattern (1994), 134-150. • Linda Pershing, “’She Really Wanted to Be Her Own Woman’: Scandalous Sunbonnet Sue,” in Joan Newlon Radner, Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture (1993), 98-125. • Alice Walker, “Everyday Use” in Cecilia Macheski, Quilt Stories (1994), 174-182. • Bernard L. Herman, “’A cloak for all my errors’: Voice, Virtuosity, and the Art of the Quilt” in Ellen Endslow, ed., Layers: Unfolding the Stories of Chester County Quilts (2009), 13-28. February 17. Album Quilts: Souvenir and Community • Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993), 151-169. • Jessica F. Nicoll, Quilted for Friends: Delaware Valley Signature Quilts, 1840-1855 (1986), 1-27. • Nancy E. Davis, The Baltimore Album Quilt Tradition (1999), 14-19 plus selected quilts. February 24. The Quilt Revival, Art Quilts, and Quilt Politics • Robert Shaw, American Quilts: The Democratic Art (2009), 277-357. • Teri Klassen, “Representations of African American Quiltmaking: From Omission to High Art,” Journal of American Folklore 122 (2009), 297-334. • Anna C. Chave, “Dis/Cover/ing the Quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama,” Journal of Modern Craft, 1:2 (2008), 221-254. • Bernard L. Herman, “Response: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend: How Great Art Gets Lost,” Journal of Modern Craft, 2:1 (2009), 9-16. March 10. Spring Break March 17. Tradition and Invention • Merikay Waldvogel, Deborah Rake, and Marin F. Hanson, “Repackaging Tradition: Pattern and Kit Quilts,” in Marin F. Hanson and Patricia Cox Crews, eds., American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940 (2009), 305-382. • Beverley Gordon and Marin F. Hanson, “Regularly Irregular: Crazy Quilts,” in Marin F. Hanson and Patricia Cox Crews, eds., American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940 (2009), 127-178. • Bernard L. Herman, “Architectural Definitions,” in Paul Arnett, Joanne Cubbs, and Eugene W. Metcalf, Jr., Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt (2006), 206-219. March 24. Biography and Art • Linda Eaton, “my situation in life: the story of mary remington,” in Quilts in a Material World (2007), 12-31. • Richard Powell, Dan Cameron, and Michelle Wallace, contributors, Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quits (1998), 1-26. • Suzanne Marshall, Take-Away Appliqué (1998), 19-66. • Leonard Casutto, "The Silhouette and the Secret Self: Theorizing Biography in Our Times," American Quarterly 58.4 (2006) 1249-1261 [online Project Muse] March 31. Workshop: Considering Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955) In this meeting, we will take Rauschenberg’s canonical Bed and develop a call for entries from quiltmakers who wish to offer a quilt-based response to the work. • http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A4823&page_number=4&template_id=1&sort_order=1 • Sue Pierce and Verna Suit, Art Quilts: Playing with a Full Deck (1994), 8-39. April 7. Presentations April 14. Presentations April 21. Presentations April 28. Presentations