You have just 7 days to get to Boston to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before the 27th, when Quilts and Color closes.
Why make the trek?
1. Bragging rights.
This is a seminal quilt show that ranks in quilt history alongside the 1971 Whitney Museum show “Abstract Design in American Quilts”, the 1980 Kentucky Quilt Project first major quilt documentation undertaking, and the 2002 Houston Museum of Fine Art Gee’s Bend exhibit. You want to say you were there and experienced it. It is going to influence quilting. I am already thinking differently after seeing it.
2. It is a visual gift exquisitely presented to us by an exceptional visionary group of individuals:
These people, along with an incredible supporting cast of dedicated museum staff, including a team of textile conservationists that patiently and painstakingly worked for one year on the collection to prepare it for the show, passionately created this event for us.
We often head into exhibitions knowing very little about what led up to or goes on behind the scenes. I want to share with you a little more about that.
I start with Tomomi Itakura. As the MFA senior designer her job was to create the gallery to house the exhibition. She deftly divided the 10,000 square foot space to create an environment simultaneously intimate and spacious for these impactful works of art. Her attention to detail floats quietly in the unobtrusive interpretational labels. Her choice of wall colours, which change from room to room, seamlessly support the conversation between quilts and viewer. True, the quilts are displayed on the wall, but it is for me this supporting use of wall colour and ensuing conversation that provokes an unexpected, profoundly deep connection … as you view them, the quilts come off the walls and lay themselves on your soul.
This exhibit is a prime example of why MFA Director Malcolm Rogers will be missed and his pending retirement leaves such huge shoes to fill. His title is Director of the Museum but I believe he would be better described as CVO … Chief Visionary Officer. He saw what these quilts have to offer the art world and embraced the project. To hear others talk of his involvement is to vicariously feel Roger’s palpable passion for the museum and the public and community it serves.
The talent of currators Pamela Parmal and Jennifer Swope shines through in the unimaginable task, alongside Roy, of narrowing down the over 300 quilt candidates from the extensive Pilgrim/Roy collection, to just 60. How to chose? That is just it. While the show is colour and quilts, overarching this exhibit is the idea of engagement. “This show gets people to question the boundaries between art and craft, popular art forms and fine art forms and breaks down those boundaries,” said Pamela in an interview with WCVB, Boston.
And finally, Gerald E. Roy and Paul Pilgrim. Thank goodness they “accidentally” stumbled onto the beauty of quilts so many years ago. Their combined talents and artistic eye, alongside their unyielding commitment to their core vision for their collection based on excellent condition and visual impact is what is at the foundation of this exhibit. Roy describes how “together they became searchers, gathers, keepers, conservators, historians, makers and teachers – teaching being the most rewarding.” Through this show, we are most gently guided by them, and richly rewarded for the journey. You can read more about their collection here.
“This is my dream show,” said Roy. “Not just to show the beauty, but also to educate people.” It is a dream show. Malcolm Roger’s vision, Tomomi Itakura’s design, Pamela Parmal, Jennifer Swope and Gerald Roy’s careful selection and interpretation, and thoughtful presentation, combine to offer a rich, seamless and powerfully enlightening and colourful experience.
There was not one jarring moment. Not one off note. I left in elation.
I had the immense privilege, along with friends, to have a personal tour of the exhibit with Gerald.
It was a delight to watch our group grow to nearly 80 by the end as visitors in the gallery gathered with us along the way.
As the gallery talk was drawing to a close Gerald shared the following with us:
“The art critics here have been very, very wonderful to us. It has been extraordinary how this exhibit has been accepted. (He unfolds a paper he has just removed from his jacket pocket.) Peter Walsh, April 16th, 2014 ArtsFuse review, a Boston online arts magazine. Peter Walsh has worked for Harvard Art Museum, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Wellesley College, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it goes on and on and on … so he’s got great creditials. He writes, ‘Far from being the cool, detached, and cerebral creations of the color field artists, these quilts, imagined in their intended context, are deeply personal, sensuous, and alive. This is ART. True enough, but in the context of these transcendent creations, art just might be too limiting a word.’ He got it. He got what quilts have that are over and above what other art forms have. And you know it’s not about me. It’s not about Paul. (He pauses as he points to the quilts on the wall, and with deep emotion continues.) Just imagine what the quiltmakers would think of their work on the walls of one of the finest art institutions in country. Thank you.”
No. Thank you Gerald.
So take thee to Boston … quick! And have oxygen handy when you walk into the gallery! This exhibit will take your breath away.