Yesterday we were lucky enough to go and visit the Denver Art Museum for their media open house, which was an introduction to the exhibits and programs that they will launch this summer. There was a fascinating retrospective of the work of pop artist Tom Wesselmann, an exhibit of 20th century Japanese prints and a collection of recent portraits by the talented painter Daniel Sprick. But we were there for the quilts, of course, which were displayed in the new textile gallery in an exhibit titled First Glance/Second Look.
When we arrived at the museum, it was great fun to see the huge community quilt in the lobby, for which we made a panel last year.
Bottom half of the SPUN community quilt. Our panel is in the third row from the left, second from the bottom.
Curator of Textile Art, Alice Zrebiec, was kind enough to give us an in-depth tour of the First Glance/Second Look exhibit and explained why each of the quilts were chosen. Out of more than 300 quilts which are currently in the Denver Art Museum’s collection, this exhibit contains more than 20 quilts, selected to illustrate different traditional techniques and patterns that are still popular today, like log cabins, stars, mosaic, applique and more. It’s a diverse and engaging show, and if you make it to the Denver area in the next year or so, I highly recommend a visit.
I’ll show just a few favorite quilts from the exhibit, since there was so much more to see besides that!
The Matterhorn Quilt made by Myrtle May Fortner, 1934. Alice says this is one of the most popular and most requested quilts in the collection.
Detail of The Matterhorn Quilt. It’s made up of 9,135 squares that each finish at 3/4″
Medallion Quilt from England, 1820s. We all loved the large patches and the use of printed stripes as sort of cheater patchwork fabric. Modern quilt concepts go back a long, long time.
Here’s an example of patchwork that was not used in a quilt. Alice said this man’s shirt was added to the museum’s collection around the 1940s.
Seminole piecing on a garment.
detail of the piecing
Adjacent to the exhibit, there was a great activities area for kids and adults alike, surrounded by examples and explanations of just about everything to do with textiles, sewing and quilting.
This section was all about different dyeing techniques like shibori, clamping, wax-resist and more.
In the activities area was a really fun and clever companion exhibit featuring quilts made by member of Studio Art Quilt Associates. It was in a big chest of drawers, and each drawer contained a little treasure of an art quilt. I thought it was a thoughtful, space saving way to display the quilts – while you have to take a bit of trouble to open the drawers to see them, each one becomes like a little secret surprise that you’ve uncovered. Even though they’re under glass in the drawers, you can get nice and close to look at the details.
Chest of drawers containing quilts by SAQA members
Yo Yo Botanica by Faye Anderson of Broomfield, Colorado.
It Takes a Village – California by Gretchen B. Hill of Carlsbad, California.
Progress? by Dierdre Adams of Littleton, Colorado.
There were also two ladies demonstrating tatting, or lace-making, the same way that it’s been done for centuries. It looked very cool but it was hard to tell what exactly they were doing with all those pins and strings!
Lace tatting demonstration
Tatting up close and in action!
Tatting finished product
There were also frames where people could try their hand at quilting stitches, and a big table and a board, both with a grid, along with cut out squares and triangles to create patchwork designs. It is a great introduction to everything about quiltmaking, and the hands-on activities really give a nice perspective and insight into everything that went into making the quilts shown on the wall. I had to be dragged out of there when it was time to go!
Try some quilting stitches on the frame…
…or make a patchwork design!
A fun way to get your work onto museum walls.
On the way back down (the textiles are on the 6th floor), we passed this very interesting piece displayed in the room with all the amazing Oceanic art. The scale and history of the artifacts in this room are really impressive. This piece fits in pretty well, it’s a skyscraper of blankets! All the blankets were donated to the artist, and attached to each one is a hand-written story that shares it’s significance to the donor. Here’s what artist Marie Watt said about it, “We are received in blankets, and we leave in blankets. The work…is inspired by the stories of those beginnings and endings, and the life in between. I am interested in human stories and the rituals implicit in everyday objects.”
Blanket Story: Confluence, Heirloom and Tenth Mountain Division by Marie Watt, 2013.
If you get an opportunity to visit the Denver Art Museum this year, go! The quilts are so incredible, but there’s a whole lot to see besides those. The staff really make an effort to be interactive and draw people into the spirit of each exhibit with activities and information to enhance the experience. It’s a ton of fun for people of all ages and very family friendly.
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