“This exhibit makes me so happy,” says Gale Brewer, the borough president of Manhattan, of the “Quilts: Tribute to Black History 2017” exhibit in the art gallery of the Borough President’s Office. “I just love walking through here,” she added of the display in the long light-flooded gallery, overlooking Centre Street and Chambers, on the 19th floor of the Municipal Building, in Manhattan. The exhibit that opened Feb. 1 runs through the month and is open during business hours.
Representing the inspiration and creativity of 27 fabric artists, all members of Quilters of Color Network, NYC, the 42 quilts gracing the gallery walls are in varying sizes from almost two feet square to more than six feet squarish.
A variety of advanced quilting techniques are on display. Some reflect traditional designs or carefully thought out patterns while others incorporate new technologies such as photo transfers and applique. Bright colors shout out from some and others evoke earth shades — popular colors in Africa, while a few depart the color spectrum and are strictly in black and white.
This art form brings together the marriage of aesthetics, creative challenges, and technical expertise. Fans and practitioners of quilt-making celebrated these results at the joyful opening night reception that also attracted members of other New York City quilting guilds.
With two quilts that incorporate subjects from history on display, (“Obama-A Key in American History” and “Postcards From the Ancestors”), fabric artist Sylvia Hernandez is a member of this and the Brooklyn Quilters Guild. She studied illustration in high school and after her kids were grown she could finally devote her efforts, full-time to quilting. As a professional, she also helps others to finish their quilts.
Every quilt has a story of what inspiration motivated the artist in their color, design, and subject choices. Whether conveyed through design or direct reference, the subjects of these quilts are all about Black History: the blues, African people, jazz, ancestors, Duke Ellington or Frederick Douglas, just to name a few.
At the reception, guests chatted while enjoying the tasty eats prepared and served by culinary students from Food and Finance High School.
Karen Brown spoke about the Quilt n Queens Guild that she belongs to and revealed quilters’ eccentricities, “We love fabric! Quilters will travel all over to build their stash (of fabric) and network. We took a bus to Amish country to buy fabric.” She continued, “The joy is making, designing and being creative. And now, quilters venture away from traditional patchwork block squares.”
“This is the kick-off for our 25th anniversary,” said guild president Sandi Howell whose displayed 50”x 52” “American Dream Scrapbook” uses many techniques. “We take everybody and yes, we have men in our group, too, (two of whom are exhibiting).”
Explaining that this guild’s goal is to exhibit in art galleries, Howell told of their next projected exhibition: four weeks at Westbeth Gallery in October. With three side rooms and a large main gallery there will be a lot of wall space to fill. “Everything will be new,” she said, embracing the challenge.
Quilters of Color Network of New York meet at Hudson Guild, 441 w. 26th St., the 4th Saturday of every month except July and August.