Thursday, February 4, 2010

My American Series - The Brown's Quilt

At long last, I am keeping my promise and beginning the weekly series talking about each of the quilts in the My American Series. This series will feature each of the six quilts in the series in the order in which they were created. The first in the series is Homage to Ed and Sylvia Brown: Baltimore Album Quilt.

Dr. Gaither created the Brown's quilt in 2004 while on sabbatical from MICA. Yes, I said 2004. Amazing to believe that there have been 6 quilts in this series created in just 5 years with two of them completed last year. The Brown's quilt celebrates Baltimore philanthropists Ed and Sylvia Brown who made several generous contributions to cultural institutions throughout the city of Baltimore to preserve African American history and culture. One of those institutions was MICA, the school where Dr. Gaither teaches.

This piece incorporates squares Dr. Gaither created during a Baltimore Album quilt making class she took in Annapolis, MD led by Judy Shapiro. The squares created during this class eventually made their way on the quilt in the first square and the 19th square.

The quilt is the least like the other My American Series quilts aesthetically, however you can see the beginning of several features that would eventually become trademarks in several other quilts in the series. The quilt is a Baltimore Album style quilt just like the Poulson Slaver quilt, Airport quilt, and J2WH. There are 25 squares on the quilt, each highlighting an different aspect of the Browns' gifts, philosophy, or heritage. There are not nearly as many photo transfer images on the quilt and no multi-layered border, however many key elements are there including the use of hearts in the corners to anchor the quilt, the fleur de lis, and contemporary fabric. The quilt also fits into the series given its size (94 inches long and 100 inches wide).

A traditional Baltimore Abum quilt will feature the primary subject of the quilt in the center square, however the Brown's did not want the quilt to be about them primarily but the beliefs and values that shaped who they are. As a result, Dr. Gaither used an image of a Bible as the center square to illustrate the source of the couple's dedication to helping others.

This quilt is the beginning of a developing series not only in what Dr. Gaither quilts and they appear, but also in how she creates the quilts and incorporates the community. This first quilt was created as a solo project without assistance featuring members of her community. The next quilt in the series, the Community Quilt, begins as a solo project about her community with content assistance which then turns into a community wide project with several quilts created by community members inspired by hers. More about that quilt next week.

A full image of the Brown's quilt may be found in the posting directly below this one. I can't post a full close up image of the quilt, however I am including the center column with the Bible image and two rows showing different institutions included for you to get the "feel" for the quilt.

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