Quilt exhibition opens at Johnson Center

Published 8:48 pm Monday, January 19, 2009

Quilts might be an oddity in some areas of the country and in some social circles but, in Pike County, quilts are as much a part of the culture as turnip greens and cornbread.

For that reason, quilts spur the interest of all ages and from all walks of life.

Quilts stir memories of Grandma or Aunt Edna or of cold winter nights under the heavy warmth of quilts.

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Quilts are pictured in many ways in the minds of those who found close comfort in them. So, “Just How I Picture It in My Mind” is a fitting title of the quilt exhibition that opened at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy on Jan. 15.

The 16-quilt exhibit is a selection of African American quilts on loan from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Kempf Hogan Collection.

The exhibit pays homage to the place that quilts have held in our society and family traditions.

“The quilts in this exhibit were created in an old-fashioned paradigm where the making of art, ‘a product of human creativity’ and life are a seamless whole,” said Joey Brackner, author of a book on the quilt collection. “These quilts are also, for the most part, products of a folk or community tradition.”

The exhibit includes the work of Yvonne Wells, a self-taught artist and retired Tuscaloosa public school teacher. She began quilting in 1979 and is now famous for her signature picture quilts, which often include Biblical and civil rights themes.

Richard Metzger, Johnson Center for the Arts executive director, said he is extremely pleased for the arts center to host such a renowned quilt exhibit.

“Not only does the exhibit include quilts by highly acclaimed artist Yvonne Wells, it also includes quilts by the Gee’s Bend quilters,” he said. “It is an extraordinary exhibit and we are fortunate to have it here in Troy.”

Docents have been schooled on the art of quilt making and the “story quilts” in the exhibit.

“Their knowledge of the quilts and the process will make a tour of the quilt exhibit an interesting and educational experience for everyone,” Metzger said.

Susan Berry and Joyce Conrad are two of the docents who will lead tours and both said they are impressed by the exhibit.

“There is a tremendous amount of folklore associated with quilts and with the exhibit,” Conrad said. “We are looking forward to sharing what we have learned with visitors to the Johnson Center for the Arts.”

Wiley White, Center development director, said teachers are encouraged to make a field trip to the Johnson Center for the Art a “must” for their students.

“These quilts are lessons in history, math, design and storytelling and are lessons waiting to be learned,” she said.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the Johnson Center for the Arts is always free.