At this very moment, Dr. Gaither is working in a house carpeted with quilts -- literally. She is currently on sabbatical working on her 50 current quilt projects. To organize them all, she has taken over every possible space in the house to lay them out along with her supplies. Not only is the house carpeted with quilts, but the counter spaces, tables, beds, and any other flat surface of any decent size is covered as well. The mantles on the fireplaces as well as some of the smaller coffee tables are covered with supplies. I commented on this to her, thinking about how the clutter would drive me crazy and slow me down but for her it is inspiring. She told me that she operates in a way that when she is feeling blocked or frustrated she goes to the fabrics and supplies for inspiration. She kept repeating the phrase "go to the materials," which couldn't stop me from thinking about the phrase "go to the mattresses" from The Godfather. You're blocked and want to fight it? Go to the mattresses/materials. Who knew I would ever write about the movie The Godfather? I don't think anyone is more surprised than I am about the reference, especially since I have never seen the movie. I will leave it to you to figure out in what movie I saw the reference in.
The effort certainly isn't without its rewards as I have been receiving nightly reports on her progress which includes the creation and development of two quilts that were only figments of her imagination in the days leading up to her trip. The two quilts focus on completely different topics and are part of series either already in development or that she is starting. The first quilt is one on Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath five years later. The quilt has taken shape in the past 2 weeks like no quilt I have seen her work on to date. In my daily status updates I would hear about new elements added, new uses for materials but the photos I received today are the first full look I have had of the quilt. The second completely new quilt is one on Dr. Faye Allen, the first female African American doctor in Anne Arundel County. This quilt will have images of the African American women doctors who have come after her. The quilt is part of a new series she is developing on groundbreaking women. The list of women she will focus on is growing every day. She already has the initial design for Harriet Tubman ready to go.
While on her sabbatical trip, Dr. Gaither had initially told me she was going to focus on the National Black Theatre Festival quilt and her My Memory is Only as Good as Yours series. The My Memory series is definitely shaping up with these quilts making up most of the quilt carpet in the house. Each decade features larger and more colorful quilts than the last with an additional quilt being added for every decade she has lived in. Currently the 1960s quilts are in good shape and the 1990s are coming into full view.
The National Black Theatre Festival quilt (the latest in the My American Series) is coming along and Dr. Gaither expects the majority of the design work to be completed by mid-November. This quilt will serve as the Thanksgiving-Christmas project/rush job of 2010. I say rush job because this will be the 3rd year in a row that Dr. Gaither and her quilting crew will be working overtime to finish one of the My American Series quilts. Last year was the Black Watermen and the year before was Journey to the White House. There is a definite trend emerging here with the My American Series quilts and their deadlines, but those in the quilting crew wouldn't have it any other way. The crew is anxiously waiting to get to work and have been heard saying they are worried she won't have left them any work to do. If you are in the quilting crew, never fear, there is plenty of quilting to do. If you are interested in joining the quilting crew, please let us know. Extra hands are always a great asset for these oversized monsters and this one is definitely that. After promising not to make another quilt as large as the Watermen's quilt, she has already forgotten her promise and the newest addition may end up being the largest yet.
So those are the sabbatical projects and their updates. For one more update, there is a new exhibition, Respecting Humanity, on view at the Maryland State Arts Council in Baltimore. That exhibition is on view now until 11 February. The exhibition features 13 quilts dealing with social justice issues including several that have never been exhibited publicly before or at least not in a very long time. The Black Watermen quilt is also included in this exhibition. Details on each of the pieces included in this exhibition to appear on here over the next several weeks. A reception and artist talk will be held the first Friday in December. Stay tuned for exact details on this exhibition.