Feature Articles

March Issue 2002

SC State Museum in Columbia, SC, Features Quilt Exhibition

"The only truly unique thing any of us can give to the world is our story," says Dottie Moore, a quilt artist from Rock Hill, SC.

The stories of 33 women from across the United States are told in a dazzling display of color, texture and pattern in the exhibition, Piecing a Quilt of Life: Contemporary Art Quilts by Senior Women. The exhibit can be seen from Mar. 8 through June 3 at the SC State Museum in Columbia, SC.

The 92 quilts in the show give a "very diverse" view of the medium, says Robin Waites, curator of the exhibit - landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, and abstracts - you name it. Some designs recall traditional quilt patterns. Others are "very painterly," she says. "There are some wonderful pieces inspired by nature."

Hold that Thought, a quilt by Susan Rienzo of Center Monehes, NY, has become the signature piece for the exhibition. "It really embodies the spirit of the project," Waites says. "When people reach this point in their lives, they find a lot of power and creativity." The woman on the quilt is "literally exploding with ideas and images and color." Although Waites suspects the figure is a self-portrait of Rienzo, "the imagery has the potential to inspire anyone who sees the piece, not just older women."

Interlocking Diamonds by Lynda M. H. Faires of Louisville, CO, "falls along the lines of what you would traditionally think of when you look at quilts," Waites says. Faires uses muted colors: dark greens and blues and browns. "But she contrasts them with lighter colors of those same shades to create an optical illusion. The colors seem to be pushing back and forth," Waites says.

"What really holds the exhibit together is the narrative quality," Waites says. "The artists tell their life stories, their personal stories through the creative process of making these quilts." The story-telling aspect of the exhibit is emphasized by black and white photographs of the artists and some audio tapes of interviews with them.

A woman who has reached the half-century mark has years of experience and has juggled many responsibilities, Dottie Moore says. 'She's wise. She knows who she is, and she's ready to call a spade a spade. She's not playing games anymore." People over 50 are also the fastest growing segment of the population, she says. "We have power whether we want it or not." She hopes the exhibit will give older women that message.

But Moore also says the exhibit represents everyone - "the young and old, male and female. The senior woman, the creative woman is just a symbol for the wise, intuitive, creative part of all of us."

Moore's curiosity about how creative women live their lives is how the exhibit came about. She has been making art quilts since 1980. In 1996, when she was 54, she decided it was time to broaden her horizons. The first step was a trip that found her in Bali, Indonesia, on her fifty-fifth birthday. About three months after she returned to the United States, the idea for the Piecing A Quilt of Life project was born. Moore began traveling around the country talking with other women who made art quilts. "I began to question: What happens when we choose to dedicate a portion of our life to bringing our original ideas into form? How does the process of art-making change and/or bring joy and purpose to our lives?"

Sometimes she slept alone in a tent. Sometimes she stayed with women she was interviewing. "I wasn't making quilts; the quilts were making me," she says. "I was moving away from being a safe good girl to being one who wanted to step out into the world."

Moore's research, which took her as far from her home as California, Washington and New York, is the basis of the exhibit. Moore and Waites selected the artists that are included. Waites selected the quilts.

"There is a strong tradition of quiltmaking in this country," Waites says. In the 1970s, artists began to look at quilts in terms of their aesthetic value. What grew out of that was the art quilt movement. Piecing a Quilt of Life gives a wonderful view of the contemporary art quilt medium," she says.

For more information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the museum at 803/898-4921, or on the web at (http://www.museum.state.sc.us).

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