Quilts and Dancing

I should have told y’all about this a week ago… but things got a bit congested around here after the holiday weekend’s antics.  Anyway, I am a bit of a gallery hound… happiest when I am nursing gallery legs from too long days spent trawling around museums and galleries and pausing every few seconds to take in things in a rarefied, hushed environment.  There is something a little mystical about these places and I don’t really like to interrupt other people’s enjoyment of them.  Consequently, with an increasingly shouty little person to spend my days with, I have avoided the hallowed halls of St Louis’ fine and free galleries until now.  But have been mulling over getting Kazuo used to them, since we are London bound at Christmas, and no trip to London is complete for me without some time spent pottering about in the Hayward, the National Gallery and the Tate Modern.

Our friend Tarah called a couple of weeks ago to say she had membership at the Missouri History Museum, and did I want to come with her for an outing to see the  Gee’s Bend Quilts that had been on exhibition there all summer.  I love to celebrate the home-style crafts of women that are a testament to centuries of providing for families in the most creative ways they can.  So I jumped at the chance.  I was a little apprehensive about Kazuo’s current loud impatience, but Tarah wasn’t phased, and a Friday afternoon at the MO History Museum was not busy time for the gallery.  So off we went.

I confess to not really having known much about quilting… save that it is a very labour-intensive art form well beyond my patience levels.  I have made one patchwork quilt in my life, it was a pretty lame affair… strips of calico that I died three different colours and alternated with some Laura Ashley fabric, cut into squares and machined up as quickly as I could onto an existing blanket.  It was serviceable for my bed but nothing to show off about.  Ironically, the thing that Tarah was not keen about with these particular quilts was the one thing I disliked about that quilting experience… it was all just too symmetrical!

It was wonderful to me, then, to encounter these incredible quilts and the women who made/inspired them, because they were the least symmetrical things you had ever seen.  They were put together from scraps of workaday fabric, which is how quilts should be, and they were born of necessity – women of the south who had to keep their families warm and stayed up long into the night peering at their piecework to do so.  Fantastic!  Here is one of the quilts… I loved the choppy irregularity of the designs, no quilt was like another:

MLB-show

We also managed to get two exhibitions in during our visit, we dropped into see the Katherine Dunham, Beyond the Dance exhibit.  Not sure how I had not heard of Katherine Dunham, but it was also an inspiration to view a retrospective of a woman who had so shaped dance and social anthropology in this country.  She had such a vast impact on both art and culture in the early/mid 20thC here, and I am keen now to seek out some of her films and watch some of the incredible works she choreographed.

Katherine Dunham

All in all, a satisfying afternoon at the gallery – thanks Tarah – and Kazuo got a little scratchy, but survived the distance.  There is hope for us yet!

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