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Month: January 2017

Celebrate 200 Years of Quilts in Alabama!

You may have heard that the state of Alabama will be celebrating the bicentennial of statehood for the next three years. Beginning this month and extending through December of 2019, state institutions will feature projects that focus on Alabama’s rich social and cultural heritage. The MMFA’s first exhibition honoring the bicentennial opens this month, and the project reflects a cooperative spirit, ingenuity, and respect for our material culture that is surely worth commemorating.

Blog.Quilts2Sewn Together: Two Hundred Years of Alabama Quilts, now on view at the MMFA until April 16, had its inception at an MMFA staff ‘”pre-opening” visit to the newly completed Alabama Voices installation at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. After our introductory tour, Archives curator Ryan Blocker (pictured to the right) took us to see some special treasures in her care—storage cabinets with rolls of amazing textiles. These examples of linens, costumes, and clothing, some of them centuries old, were part of the Archives’ collections that began back in 1901; it’s the oldest state archives in the United States.

It was natural that Ryan and I began looking at and talking about Alabama quilts. The MMFA has a collection of 82 quilts primarily made in West Alabama from the decades of the 1980s and 1990s. These quilts are a mixture of examples made for practical use in the home and those made consciously as art objects for display.   Some of those in the Archives’ storeroom were created over 150 years ago; they reflect the origins of the quilt as a both a necessary utilitarian object and one that routinely demonstrated the needlecraft and creativity of the maker. The more we looked and talked, the more we discovered fascinating parallels in these quilts that were made in our state from its earliest days until the end of the twentieth century. We were excited to discover patterns, quilting techniques, themes, and methods of construction that reflected the continuity in both our extraordinary collections.

Blog.Quilts1We joined forces to select and interpret 14 exemplary pairs of quilts, composed of one example from each collection, which are now on display on the walls of the MMFA. Many of the older examples from the Archives’ collections have never been formally exhibited. Historic textiles are, by their nature, very fragile objects, and thus are rarely hung on walls or seen under exhibition lighting. We are honored that the Archives chose to share these distinctive and historically significant quilts with us in order to make them accessible to the public.

The two staffs (pictured to the right) joined forces to tell the story of the exhibition through not only text panels but also a printed brochure and an interactive website dedicated to Alabama and its quilt history. The website was largely the creation of Archive staff members Raven Christopher and Georgia Ann Hudson, with timely and creative contributions from our own curatorial digital assets manager, Sarah Graves. The site, sewntogetheralabama.org, will give this collaboration a “second life” on the internet, long past the period of the physical exhibition. It is accessible to quilt lovers the world over, as well as to local collectors and families who treasure their family heirlooms. Among the valuable resources you’ll find on the website are two videos that explain how best to care for your quilts and how to safely store them. It also contains photographs of the quilts paired with their comparative texts explaining the continuity of the quilting tradition in our state and “sneak peeks” at quilts that were too fragile for display in the galleries.

Blog.Quilts3I hope that you will take time before April 16 to come to the Museum to see these extraordinary historic textiles. It may be your only opportunity to see them before they return to their safe storage for future generations. We appreciate all of the staff members of each institution who participated in making the larger project a reality. We are very grateful for the financial support of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, as well as the sponsorship of our long-time patrons and supporters, Laura and Michael Luckett. And be sure to make a virtual visit through the website sewntogetheralabama.org to learn even more about the art of quilt making in Alabama, a tradition two hundred years in the making.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator

Fig 1.: Ryan Blocker, curator at ADAH

Fig 2.: (left to right) Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, MMFA curator; Sarah Graves, MMFA digital asset manager; Ryan Blocker, ADAH curator; Georgia Ann Hudson, ADAH PR; and Raven Christopher, ADAH archaeology curator

Fig 3.: (left to right) Staff from ADAH, Georgia Ann Hudson, Ryan Blocker, and Raven Christopher

Meet the MMFA’s Artist in Action Betty Plaster

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts prides itself on the regional artists we showcase in the Museum Store. Quarterly one of those artists is selected to demonstrate their craft for the public during Artist in Action in conjunction with DiVine Lunch. On Thursday, January 19, Betty Plaster will join us as Artist in Action from 12 noon to 2 P.M. in the Store to demonstrate how she creates works of art with beautifully pressed flowers.

We have a wide range of pieces from Betty that include matted 11 x 14 pieces for $40 to large-scale framed works priced at $300. Plaster has been working with flowers for many years but did not start selling her pieces professionally until April 2016. Her business The Rose Walk combines her favorite flower with the manner in which she procures her medium. Plaster said, “Every time I walk outside I am scouting new flowers and leaves to press,” making her keenly observant of her environment.BETTY PLASTER 3 for blog

When asked what are her favorite flowers to press? The artist unequivocally stated it was the rose. Plaster remarked, “My favorite flower to press are roses and especially individual rose petals. One rose bush will produce hundreds of different shades of color.” The geometric organization of her pieces contrasts the randomness of nature in a way that highlights the variance in each petal or pressed flower. Plaster is also acutely aware of the temporal nature of her pieces. She stated, “Each piece I create can never be created again since each flower or petal is unique.” This brings an added dimension to her pieces because you know it is entirely one of a kind. She said the newness of each leaf or petal and the shape it takes after it is pressed makes her most recently finished piece her favorite; she is unable to give top honor to any single work.

When asked what she thought would be the best advice to give people attempting to press and mat flowers themselves Plaster offered, “Always press more flowers than you think you will need for a picture. Some flowers will mold during the pressing process especially if they are picked during days with high humidity.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease join us on Thursday, January 19 to meet Betty Plaster, ask her any questions you may have about pressing your own flowers, and purchase her beautiful work. If you would like to join us for DiVine Lunch, reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 334.240.4339. Please click here to view the menu.

Blake Rosen
Special Events Coordinator

A New Year Brings Excitement to the MMFA

With a new year comes more opportunities for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. As we enter into 2017, we anticipate that the opening of our winter exhibitions, a free movie screening, and various other events will generate enthusiasm in the River Region.

Take a look at the list of happenings for the month of January.

Film at the Museum: Midnight in Paris
Thursday, January 5, 5:30 P.M.

midnight-in-paris-for-blog

We have heard from film lovers that you would like to see the movie Midnight in Paris. Join us for Woody Allen’s 2011 comedy in which an American writer and tourist in Paris suddenly finds himself in the 1920s–interacting with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Josephine Baker, the Fitzgeralds, and many other creative luminaries.

First Sundays
Sunday, January 8, 1 P.M.

 

Art Ed Central
Thursday, January 12, 4:30 P.M.

ED.teacher.12callout

Enjoy a gallery talk in a new exhibition at the Museum and experience related lessons to use in your classrooms at this FREE teacher workshop.

DiVine Lunch
Thursday, January 19, 11 A.M.


 

Family Art Affair and Jazz Jams
Sunday, January 22, 2 P.M.

Web.Moonstruck.2016The lunar-inspired exhibition Moonstruck: Works on Paper from the MMFA Collection is sure to inspire you in the studio, where the whole family is welcome to create vivid nighttime scenes using various printmaking techniques.

 

 

Celebrating the Opening of  Sewn Together: Two Centuries of Alabama Quilts and Nature, Tradition & Innovation: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Gordon Brodfuehrer Collection
Thursday, January 26, 5:30 P.M.

 

 

Fleischman Lecture: From Bed to Walls: Quilts as Art
Thursday, January 26, 7 P.M.

Web.Quilt_250x180.2016

Following the opening of Sewn Together: Two Centuries of Alabama Quilts, Jennifer Swope, Assistant Curator, David and Roberta Logie Department of Textile and Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will explore the work of Alabama and other American quilters in the context of their transformation from bed covers to art.

 

 

 

 

Credit Information:
Figure 1: Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975), Huck Finn, from the Missouri State Capitol Mural Series, 1936, lithograph on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Luther Hill in memory of William Convington, 1969.13

Figure 2: Mallory and Welch Families, Mount Ida Wedding Quilt, 1851, cotton, Lent by the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama, ADAH, 86.1457.1

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