Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts

October 7, 2022 – January 20, 2023

An American pastime, quilting was a hobby promoted by our museum’s founder Otto Lightner in his magazine Hobbies. Writing in the 1940s about his plans for his St. Augustine museum of hobbies, Lightner envisioned the building, “decorated with museum material such as historical quilts, fine needle work, and rich fabrics.”

Like many objects rooted in the everyday, quilts have the capacity to communicate stories about the context in which they were made and used. They represent maps of the quilters’ lives—living records of cultural traditions, rites of passage, relationships, political and spiritual beliefs, landmark events, and future aspirations. In the same way, a map is a pocket-sized abstraction of the world beyond what can be seen; in a quilt, a maker’s choice of fabric and design reveals insights into the topography of her world and place within it.

Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts invites viewers to read quilts as maps, tracing the paths of individual stories and experiences that illuminate larger historic events and cultural trends. Spanning the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the exhibition brings together 18 quilts from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum, New York, representing a range of materials, motifs, and techniques—from traditional early American quilts to contemporary sculptural assemblage. The quilts in Handstitched Worlds show us how this too-often overlooked medium balances creativity with tradition, individuality with collective zeitgeist.

Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts opens at the Lightner Museum on October 7, 2022 and runs through January 20, 2023. The exhibition is organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Jerry Gretzinger (MI, NY), Jerry’s Map (E1/N1, Generation 11), 2009-12, Felt-tip pen, colored pencil, acrylic, tape, and plastic clippings on cardboard, Image Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, Gift of the artist, Photo by Adam Reich

The exhibition opening for Handstitched Worlds will take place during the Lightner Museum’s October 7 Community Open House

About International Arts & Artists

International Arts & Artists in Washington, DC, is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally, through exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions and the public. Visit artsandartists.org

About the American Folk Art Museum

Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has been the leading institution shaping the understanding of art by the self-taught through its exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. As a center of scholarship, it showcases the creativity of individuals whose singular talents have been refined through personal experience rather than formal artistic training. Its collection includes works of art from four centuries and nearly every continent—from compelling portraits and dazzling quilts to powerful works by living artists in a variety of mediums. Visit  folkartmuseum.org 

Featured Image: Artist Unknown, Soldier’s Quilt (detail), 1850-75, Wool, probably from military uniforms with embroidery thread, rickrack, and velvet binding; inlaid, layered-applique, hand embroidered, Image Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, Gift of Altria Group, Inc., Photo by Gavin Ashworth

The Crisp-Ellert Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida is presenting sponsor for Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts. Additional support comes from the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts.