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Quilt Exhibit Is an Eye-Opener

July 4, 2024
Time to read:
A woman standing in front of a quilt on a wall
Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill with her quilt

Quilts are often considered a simple, colorful bedspread, made of a patchwork of fabrics, or at least that’s how this reporter looked at them.  But a recent exhibit of modern quilts at the Woodbridge Town Library opened my eyes to an art form that I had never looked at before.

Playing with color, medium, message and incredibly precise execution, the quilts on display captured a moment in time, much like a painting would.  “These artists open up a new world,” said Anne Flitcraft, who curated the show.

Dubbed Quilts on Show:  A Patchwork of Our Community, the exhibit was sponsored by the Amity and Woodbridge Historical Society.  Quilts of varying sizes filled the Meeting Room walls, and spilled out into the hallway to the Woodbridge Room, and up the stairwell.

Jazz Man Quilt

Artists included, from Woodbridge and Bethany:  Sarah Jane Compton, Christina Blais, Gail Hellauer, Bethany Morelli, Sally Connolly and Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill; Marcia Cohen, Wendy Frieden; from New Haven, Nini Munro-Chmuro; from Hamden Ellen McNally; from Oxford Leslie Alexander.  Also represented were Barbara Marcone from the Kent Quilters and Diane Gilleran from Suffield, whose quilt “Playful Koi,” was included in a national show by the American Quilters Society in Grand Rapids last year.  It took a professional to point out to me how the stitching created thicker shapes to make them look like urchins, pebbles and shells.

Enriching was the information on cards about the creation of particular quilts; better yet, many featured QR codes that viewers could scan with their phones, and see the artists providing insight into how some of these pieces of art came to be.  Some cards also featured pictures of the backside – lest viewers turn them over on their own accord.

McNally Crazy Quilt

Christina Blais’ quilt “Determination,” for example, was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  It spells out – in quilted squares – “I felt a / determination / cover my body / like a quilt/ on a winter night / Rosa Parks.  “[The quote] gave me goosebumps,” when she came across it, Blais said in a video “and I knew I had my subject matter.”  “Mrs. Parks was not tired that day and her feet did not hurt, she was just tired of giving in, and that day she took a seat to take a stand.”

Blais said when she realized that Rosa Parks was a seamstress, she knew that the quilt had to be “sewing intensive.”  Each letter is pieced – with as much as 10 pieces of fabric in a single letter.  The quilt has since been shown at Sacred Threads Exhibit, Herndon VA and The Foundry, St. Charles MO.

Leslie Alexander, another of the quilters on view, had participated in a Gee’s Bend retreat and her work reflected those influences.  The QR code told the viewer about Gee’s Bend – a black community in rural Alabama – where descendants of slaves continued quilting is a proud tradition, often using unexpected patterns, unusual colors and surprising rhythms.

The most abstract of quilts hung in the Woodbridge Room over the fireplace.  “Lacrimose” by Christina Blais uses empty spaces and slits to express the void left by a good friend’s death.

Hellauer Quilt

Gail Hellauer displayed a more traditional quilt, executed with great artistry.  Called “Green Matriarchs,” the quilt features her family members in the 19th century tradition of cutouts, all engaged in different needlework.  “All kinds of stories that quilts can tell,” said Flitcraft.

Sheri Cifaldi-Morill’s “Modern Love Rainbow” shows bars in rainbow colors, reminiscent of sound waves.  It is nature-based and abstract at the same time, she said.

Asked whether quilting is experiencing a renaissance, she agreed enthusiastically.  The Modern Quilt Guild, for instance, has 300 chapters, she said.  Her quilts have been exhibited across the country.  “My quilts travel more than I do,” she said with a chuckle.

After making masks during the early months of Covid, people discovered that they could sew, she said.  Quilting is her zen, her meditation, she said.  “I love all quilts.”

Unfortunately, the show was scheduled to close at the end of August.  But, for those who would enjoy more of a taste of quilts, both old and new, the Historical Society is planning a pop-up show at the Thomas Darling House on September 9 and 10, from noon to 5 p.m.  It will show quilts made by local quilters as well as some of the antique quilts in the society’s collection.  The outdoor portion of the pop-up is weather permitting.

This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.

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