Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Day at the Oregon History Museum

Eileen Fitzsimons shows Amanda Snyder dolls
The Columbia-Willamette Quilt Study Group met last weekend at the Oregon History Museum in Portland for the summer general meeting and tour of the Timeless Quilts exhibit, which is on display through July.

We were joined by out-of-state visitors from Arizona and Seattle, as well as members from Portland to Eugene. Attendees enjoyed a morning presentation about Amanda Snyder with historian Eileen Fitzsimons, and an afternoon viewing the Timeless Quilts exhibit.

Amanda Snyder isn't exactly a household name to most people, but she was an intriguing figure in the Oregon arts community and she made quilts. Historian Eileen Fitzsimons of Portland shared three of these quilts, all recently documented by the Oregon Quilt Project and donated by Eileen to the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center. She also shared two dolls made by Snyder.

According to Eileen, Amanda Snyder was a very reclusive person who was known to respond visually to what she saw. Eileen gathered some information about her life from her son, who Eileen had met, and a catalog that included Snyder's work. The group viewed a wool quilt that included fabric from the Aurora Colony, a cotton quilt with wonderful fabrics (pictured), and a cotton Dresden Plate quilt with Snyder's name and date embroidered on the front.

Following Eileen's talk, members and guests presented quilts that pushed the boundaries. Visitor Lynn Miller from Arizona shared a wonderful stuffed strawberry applique quilt.

Shiela Steers shared a quilt called "Your Name Here" made with applied plastic credit card blanks received in the mail from credit card companies trying to drum up business. The plastic credit cards on the quilt say "Your Name Here".

Bill Volckening showed six quilts made between 1982 and 2011 by another very intriguing artist who worked in Oregon, Andrea Balosky. The group of quilts included her earliest art quilt, "Night Flight" (pictured). We wrapped up the morning session with a brief group business meeting.

"Night Flight" 1982 by Andrea Leong Scadden, aka Andrea Balosky
After lunch, the group viewed a three-part exhibit guest curated by CWQSG group members Mary Bywater Cross and Bill Volckening with contributions from Marsha Matthews of OHS. The exhibit, "Timeless Quilts" is on display at the museum through July, and is the first quilt exhibit at the museum in decades.

"At First Light" was on display alongside the Timeless Quilts exhibit
Just outside of the exhibit but not officially part of it is a wonderful Portland cityscape quilt called "At First Light" by a group of local quiltmakers - Jo Barry, Sally Hopkins, Nancy Harvey, Cheri Jolivette, Meg Shaw and Robin Hill - who teamed-up to make a sweeping, six-piece panel. The quilt was inspired by a photo by Dale Archer, and OHS was more than thrilled to exhibit it alongside the Timeless Quilts exhibit. The quilt was the viewer's choice award winner at the 2011 Northwest Quilter's Show, and several of the artists were on hand to see it hanging in the museum.

The Timeless Quilts exhibit was just around the corner, and the whole idea first came to be when OHS decided to bring an exhibit of international art quilts to Portland. Marsha, Mary and Bill put their heads together regarding the concept, and decided to add historic quilts from the permanent collection of OHS and works by Oregon artists to the mix. These quilts give the exhibit context within our time and place, and lend to the ideas about quilts as works of art.

In the exhibit entrance is a painting by Amanda Snyder of a log cabin quilt, as well as the quilt that likely inspired the painting. There was a brief introduction to the exhibit by Mary and Bill, and viewer's choice quilts - Mary's idea for speaking to traditional methods of recognizing quilts as works of art. Several of the Oregon artists were available to speak about their work, and the gallery was packed with wide-eyed quilt lovers who all seemed quite happy.

It was a fine day spent at the museum looking at quilts, and we think everyone went away happy. A very big thank you goes out to the Oregon Historical Society and Museum for hosting the quilt study group. The museum curators have taken a special interest in quilts and the Oregon quilt community, and it's likely there will be other quilt exhibits at OHS in the future. We look forward to returning to OHS for more quilt related activities.