cheery projects
May 12, 2013
the wrong side
May 20, 2013
cheery projects
May 12, 2013
the wrong side
May 20, 2013
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controversial quilts

Hello all, Mary Ellen again.

We’ve been talking about the modern quilting movement and their recent gathering QuiltCon here at the blog of late. One quilt hung in the show at QuiltCon has caused quite a stir among quilters. It definitely “ain’t your grandma’s quilt”! But first let’s back track a bit.

In the early 2000’s a group of quilters in Lawrence Kansas wanted to erase some of the “goody two shoes” from the image of quilters and worked together to make a quilt depicting the demise of Sunbonnet Sue. Many quilters were incensed by this attack on the beloved traditional pattern. Apparently some parts of quilting are to be held sacred. Here is a link to an image of the quilt, now residing in a university archives in Michigan.

At the International Quilt Show in Houston in 2010, Rochester quilter Randall Cook caused a commotion with his art quilt depicting a nude male. Quilters felt the subject was inappropriate. You might enjoy seeing images of Randall’s quilts from his website gallery. Many interesting and lovely quilts, some showing nudes. Nothing obscene in my opinion, and the gallery shows a wide range of quilting styles. There is nothing worse than what you would view in many art galleries (or along an expressway near you). click here to visit the gallery.

Yesterday I visited Joe Cunningham’s blog. I first found out about Joe back on the long gone Simply Quilts show where he would appear now and then to demonstrate hand quilting. Gorgeous work, done in the old fashioned Amish style. Now I run across Joe’s work in modern quilt context. His quilts have definitely evolved, and he has added computerized machine quilting to his repertoire. Following his most recent blog entry was his February 24, 2013 entry in which he talks about a quilt at QuiltCon that stirred up a bit of controversy, and his feeling about the entire issue. I knew of this quilt in particular, which has blocks showing the F-bomb word in many styles, perhaps 2 years ago. The whole story of the professor’s exploration of words in our language and their impact is very interesting to me. There are no upsetting images-it is more a compilation of typography. Each block within the quilt was contributed by a different quilter. I am amazed by the vitriol that I have heard around this quilt. Within Joe’s blog there is a link to an image of this “F” quilt, should you care to have a look before deciding your position on this controversy. Does freedom of speech apply to quilting? While this word is offensive to many of us, the quilter who made the controversial quilt certainly has the right to do so. I can’t imagine this quilt “threatening the future of our art form” as I read one quilter saying. I suppose this is what many artists of controversial works deal with regularly.

All in all I think it’s great that quilting is beginning to be a main stream art form-not just something that old fuddy duddies do. We have as wide a range of styles as many other art forms-from the tame to the controversial. Controversy means that people are seeing quilts, thinking about what is shown, and forming opinions. Better than having our work ignored?

Do you have an opinion?


  1. Robi says:

    I think what the “modern” movement is doing to quilting is terrific. It is opening people’s eyes to the fact that this isn’t for old fuddie-duddies any longer. Quilting is a legimate medium to express creativity, regardless of the style or direction that may lead. I say “stir it up!” — as a collective, we quilters can benefit from this if we open our minds and allow it.

  2. Barbara Guthrie says:

    I agree with the above comment, I am mostly in awe of the work portrayed by Randall Cook.

  3. Cay says:

    Modern Quilting is a breath of fresh air. Love it in general and many of the works are just stunningly beautiful. That said….

    Being of a certain age (an old fuddy duddy?), I’m reminded of the time when females attempted to take the sting out of all nasty words lobbed at them by those who would keep women “in their place” by claiming such words as their own and attaching a different construction to them. I’m also reminded of one of Jean Ray Laury’s quilts ( seen here: ) where she comments on an incendiary topic. I say the f**k quilts (there’s more than one) are right in line with an honorable quilting, art, and social commentary her-story. I may be being pedantic, but words are contextual and hurt no one unless the context is intended so.

    Of course there is this: if words normally reserved for expressing our most extreme emotions are reduced to the “size” of other words, how do we then express those emotions?

    • Mary Ellen says:

      Cay, thanks for adding your thoughts to this “discussion”. I definitely agree with your closing thought. With the prevalence of the f bomb etc. in “everyday” language, what words are left to express our strongest sentiments? Of course,my school teacher mom would say to look around in the dictionary for plenty of choices which are not so “offensive”. I personally go with fairly mild language the majority of the time, so when I want to emphasize a point I have some choice words to use which everyone will understand!

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