Bucks County Herald

Mercer Museum showcases African American quilt-making



“Jazz Night at the Apollo” is by Myra Nevius.

The Mercer Museum, Pine Street and Scout Way in Doylestown, hosts a dual exhibition of the work of African American quilters.

“Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar,” showcases the textile collection of the late Cuesta Benberry, one of the 20th century’s pioneers of research on American quilt-making and the forerunner of research on African American quilt-making.

Also on view is “The Friendly Quilters: 21st Century Traditions,” featuring the quilts of the Bucks County based guild of African American women known as The Friendly Quilters, who produce both traditional and innovative textiles that push the boundaries of African American quilt-making.

Both exhibitions will be on view at the museum through April 15.

“Unpacking Collections” features 15 important quilts from Benberry’s collection. Her research into African American quilting challenged the (still widely held) perception that African American quilts had to have a certain set of visual criteria like bright colors and asymmetrical designs.

Some of the quilts on view include pieces by well-known African American artists like Faith Ringgold “Kiss 1, Kiss 2,” and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi “Black Family Series #1: The Family of 3.” Benberry also collected quilts that depicted African American stereotypes, like a 1930 “Mammy” or “Aunt Jemima” quilt, and “Little Brown Koko,” which she felt were important documentations of ethnic stereotyping and racism.

“Unpacking Collections” also includes the only work Benberry ever quilted, along with her notes and quilt patterns.

“The Friendly Quilters” features 25 quilts from artists who infuse 21st century sensibilities and technology into quilting tradition. The adinkra embroidery featured in the “Adinkra Symbols” quilt is computer generated. A “Barak Obama” quilt, is a fiber-art piece, which involved tracing a black and white photo of the former president onto freezer paper.

Other works on view are, “Memories of Trayvon,” and a “Sudoku” quilt featuring hand-sewn adinkra symbols.

In conjunction with the exhibits, the museum will host a number of quilt-related programs, including Quilting in the African American Community at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, a workshop, Artful Fabrics for Modern Quilts-Adinkra Printing, from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 25, 21st Century Essentials–A Quilter’s Accessories at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17, and Family Craft Activity:

Make a Diva Bag, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 14. For more quilt-related programs, visit mercermuseum.org or call 215-345-0210.

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