December 22, 2000

Story Quilts Exhibition to Open at Middlebury College Museum of Art Jan. 9

Several Events to Take Place in Conjunction with the Exhibition


MIDDLEBURY, Vt.--From Jan. 9 through June 3, the Middlebury College Museum of Art will present an exhibition titled Story Quilts: Voices in Cloth. First made in the 18th century, story quilts present visual narratives that parallel the art of storytelling. Traditionally, story quilts focus on the themes of domestic life and family histories, biblical sagas, and historic events. More recently, artists have embraced the story quilt format to reestablish a link with history, express personal views and concerns, or recount feminist narratives. Story Quilts: Voices in Cloth features story quilts by two contemporary African-American artists, Peggie L. Hartwell and Faith Ringgold, as well as two historic narrative quilts from the Shelburne Museum.

The exhibition opens with two 19th-century quilts. An 1876 Appliqued and Pieced Quilt includes two blocks celebrating the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in addition to scenes of home life and biblical sagas. Pieced Quilt, Figurative Mosaic Pattern, circa 1880-1920, includes two African-American figures. As was common at the time, the design probably evolved from a popular cross-stitch manual. The works are on loan from the Shelburne Museum, which has one of the most significant collections of historic quilts in the country.

The exhibition also features three recent quilts by Peggie L. Hartwell, a member of the Women of Color Quilting Network. Ode to Harriet Powers, 1995, pays tribute to a celebrated 19th-century quilter. Six vignettes recall Powers' favorite themes, including the crucifixion of Christ, Moses healing the children, and Jonah and the whale. Hartwell's The Storyteller, 1996, was inspired by the memory of her grandfather. Described as a consummate storyteller, capable of mesmerizing his audience, William Tyler Sr. is depicted with vivid colors that parallel the richness of his stories. In the same vein, The Home-Going of Rosie Lee Hartwell Memorial Quilt, 2000, is a moving and bittersweet celebration of the artist's mother's life following her passing.

Three important story quilts by Faith Ringgold, the celebrated artist and best-selling author of children's books, are also included. Tar Beach 2, 1990, recounts the allegorical adventures of young Cassie Louise Lightfoot, one of Ringgold's alter egos, in 1930s Harlem. After a family picnic on the roof of a brownstone-the tar beach-Cassie dreams she can fly around the city. The French Collection, Part I: #2, Wedding on the Seine, 1991, presents the story of the fictional artist Willia Marie Simone, who flees her own wedding ceremony because she foresees marriage interfering with her dream of becoming an artist. Originally conceived as a performance piece, The Bitter Nest Part 5: Homecoming, 1998, is the culmination of a series chronicling the struggles and triumphs of fictional characters CeeCee and her daughter Cecilia over several decades.

Several activities, all of which are free and open to the public, will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition:

· Slide Lecture and Book Signing: On Sunday, Jan. 21, Middlebury College Twilight Scholar Faith Ringgold will present a slide lecture entitled "Story Quilts and Children's Books," from 2-4 p.m. in the Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts. A book signing will follow at 4:30 p.m.

· Children's Museum Event: On Saturday, Feb. 17, "Explore Story Quilts by Faith Ringgold," a free, drop-in program for children ages 5-12 and accompanying adults, will be offered in the Museum from 12:30-1:30 p.m. To make reservations, contact Sandi Olivo at (802) 443-2248.

· Gallery Talk: Artist Peggie L. Hartwell will present a gallery talk about story quilts on Sunday, March 11, at 2 p.m. in the Museum.

The Middlebury College Museum of Art and the Concert Hall are located in the Center for the Arts on South Main Street (Route 30) in Middlebury, Vt. Admission is free at all times. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and weekends, noon-5 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, contact Tony Lewis, acting assistant director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art, at (802) 443-5252.