Eiteljorg’s new exhibition Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories unfolds in Indianapolis

Joey Amato | January 22, 2020

The Eiteljorg Museum will launch a yearlong exploration of the profound artistic and cultural contributions of women in the American West and Native America with a new exhibition opening March 7 focusing on quilts as a storytelling medium.

Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories highlights approximately 30 fascinating examples of quilts by women artists from the early 1800s to the present day in the Western states. Far more than utilitarian bedcoverings sewn for warmth on a cold prairie, the quilt artworks and their patterns of expression instead reflect the artistry of women in the West and their lives, experiences, aspirations and struggles. Quilts in the exhibition are organized into three broad themes: family, friends and personal relationships; ethnic and regional identity; and political agency and power.

“Quilts embody personal stories and symbolize community relationships. They document people, places, and events, and serve as visual records – ones created largely by women – that help us study and understand Western art, history, and culture,” said Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg curator of Western art, history and culture, who is curating the exhibition. “Using quilts from throughout the American West, including Native America, this exhibit explores the diverse experiences of women in the West.”

Visitors experiencing Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories will learn about women artists from different backgrounds and time periods, and encounter quilts as physical manifestations of community experiences that express ideas and political opinions. Quilts by diverse women artists who are African American, Native American, Latino American and Asian American and who utilize a variety of styles and traditions are represented, featuring compelling patterns. Many of the unique and beautiful quilts in the Eiteljorg exhibition are on loan from other institutions, including the Autry Museum of the American West, the International Quilt Museum and the state historical museums of Alaska, Arizona, Nebraska and Washington State, among others. The exhibition gallery will include some interactive activities about quilt-making as an art form.

Open from March 7 to Aug. 9, 2020, Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories is included with regular museum admission. The Eiteljorg is also hosting many public events coinciding with the show, including:

  • March 21:  At 1 p.m. in the museum is a presentation by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, artist, author, historian and founder of Women of Color Quilters Network. At 3:30 p.m. is a by-reservations exhibit preview party; visit www.eiteljorg.org for details.
  • April 11:  Join Leigh Layton from INfiber and Mary Ellen Straughn of the Quilters Guild of Indianapolis to learn how to make quilted postcards. Pre-registration required at www.eiteljorg.org.
  • May 9:  Hand-stitch a quilt square and enjoy an adult beverage during a workshop with Heather Givens of Crimson Tate. No experience required; attendees must be age 21+. Pre-registration required at www.eiteljorg.org.

Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories is part of the Eiteljorg Museum’s theme during 2020: Honoring Women, featuring special exhibitions and programming throughout the year to mark the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave some women in the U.S. – but not all – the right to vote in national elections.

Other exhibitions under the theme of Honoring Women include Powerful Women: Contemporary Art from the Eiteljorg Collection, opening May 2, 2020, that focuses on the work of contemporary Native artists; and Hard Twist: The Photographs of Barbara Van Cleave, opening Nov. 7, 2020, that features documentary-style black-and-white photographs of ranch women of the West.  Several public events are planned at the museum, including guest speakers such as U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the first Native American woman to be appointed to that position; she will speak at the Eiteljorg on Sept. 26. The Eiteljorg also is collaborating with several organizations during the course of Honoring Women on events; visit www.eiteljorg.org for details.

Quilts: Uncovering Women’s Stories is sponsored by Chase Private Client Group, Ice Miller LLP, Citizens Energy, Don Hinds Ford and other sponsors, with additional support from Quilts Plus.