Squaring Up Histories Curatorial Statement
When you “square up” a quilt block, you ensure that all your corners are cut at a ninety-degree angle and all your edges are straight. The goal is to achieve a trueness or rightness that can be sustained throughout the quilt as a whole. While referencing the art of quilt-making, the objects in this exhibition are not in pursuit of the same sense of order. They share uncomfortable truths and stories of resilience through poetic asymmetry and acts of intentional undoing.
The quilts of Loretta Pettway Bennett maintain the heartbeat of the exhibition, anchoring the surrounding work with a nod to family tradition and American Folk Art. Her quilts are born from the iconic Gee’s Bend tradition, connecting with that signature style of bold colors and geometric forms. Quinn Hunter’s textile vignettes illustrate the promise sought by Black southerners during the Great Migration in the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods in Detroit. She displaces elements of woven imagery, creating a new carefully embellished fabric that also speaks of the resilience of Black community. Similarly, Aaron McIntosh uses quilting techniques and community workshops as a way to archive southern LGBTQ histories. Like kudzu, an invasive vine persistently asserting its presence within the Southern landscape, queer histories are given light and queer futures are granted room to flourish.
Julia Kwon emboldens Korean bojagi techniques (traditional object-wrapping cloth) by colorfully rendering charts and graphs reflecting current sociopolitical issues. Statistics around AAPI hate crimes, gender politics, and US military spending become a recognizable pattern. With the softness and vulnerability inherent to most textile objects, Natalie Baxter’s Warm Guns leverage their approachability in order to tackle difficult or controversial subject matter. This arsenal of droopy, harmless gun-like shapes interrogates the prioritization of aggression in American society.
The lovingly dismantled quilt parts of Rachel Meginnes reveal a different kind of history. They uncover the tiny threads and batting clinging inside a blanket that once belonged to someone else. An individual’s comfort object is laid bare and reconfigured into something new. Checkered throughout the center of the room, Matthew Szösz’s inflatable glass works use his own breath as batting and infrastructure. Seemingly formal, they also reference the story of their own creation as air pushes against the confines of glass piecework.
Through textiles and more, these artists highlight various aspects of traditional quilt-making like storytelling, piecework, and the forging of community-based connections. Their works place quilt practices into a contemporary interdisciplinary context. They tackle critical social justice issues and raise formal questions while continuing the rich traditions of American quilt-making.
This exhibition and related programming are generously sponsored by
Kay Hardesty Logan Foundation.
-Erika Diamond, Assistant Director, CVA Galleries