“Characterizing a region is challenging,” states Linzee Kull McCray, author of this fascinating study of the quilting craft of the modern Midwest. Not only are there variations in climate and perception, but many other issues arise when one thinks of a large region: when and why it was settled, what typified those pioneers who first migrated there, and what most represents its current population.
McCray, a freelance Iowa writer with a special interest in textiles and textures, emphasizes that quilting was in itself an embodiment of two important characteristics of those who first came to the Midwest (which she identifies as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). The first was cooperation and maintaining goodwill among neighbors, and the other was thriftiness, the ability to make a large warm cover out of tiny bits of cloth. McCray put out a call for present-day quilters in the Midwest to make artistic quilts that they felt displayed some aspect of their current culture and environment, leaving them “free to define the aspects” as they wished.
The result was about 100 quilts, a selection here presented in large color photographs, many machine-quilted, though some, like Donna June Katz’s “Hoagy Carmichael Sampler (Stardust),” both quilted and painted completely by hand. The Carmichael quilt illustrates some of the Indianan’s most famous songs: “Stardust,” “Rockin’ Chair,” and “Up a Lazy River.” Quilt artist Bonnie Peterson has created a complex overlay in tapestry and embroidery called “Of Bogs and Benthos” that includes stitched text from “long ago explorers and environmentalists.” Erick Wolfmeyer offers a hand-quilted geometric concoction in earthy reds and greens called “Venus Transit,” inspired by a picture of an old-fashioned Parchesi board. Shin-Hee Chin, a modern immigrant to Kansas from Seoul, Korea, pays tribute to the state with “People of the Wind 1” (this is a rough translation of the Native American word “kansas”). Her 60”x49” composition features an overall natural background of streaks like the grassy prairie—within each quilted square are small, rough, hand-stitched native faces.
Art Quilts the Midwest transforms the home craft of warming our sleep to the museum art of opening our eyes. Innovative, it will surely be appreciated by quilters and multi-media artists and their fans.