African-American Quilts
African_American, Quilts, Eli Leon, Improvisational, Afro-American, Quilts,  Rosie Lee Tompkins, Arbie Williams, African American, Eli Leon,
Mission Statement:

The knowledge, attitudes and values carried across the Atlantic by enslaved Africans appear to have informed a quiltmaking tradition so powerful that, to this day, it preserves its identity in a special province of African-American quilts.  Such "Afro-traditional" quilts are made by people who have no formal art training and who usually do not consider themselves artists; they learned their craft and absorbed its esthetics by watching and helping their mothers, aunts and grandmothers who, in turn, learned from previous generations--an astonishingly short, direct line to the patchwork traditions of enslaved African-Americans.

The resulting--often highly idiosyncratic--quilts call out to be seen as the works of art that they are.  Not that they cease to be products of custom.  The brilliance of this work must also be credited to a tradition which encourages individual expression and provides a context in which the talents of individual artists can flourish.

Improvisation, pervasive in black African art and familiar as a basic element of many African-American musical forms, is a vital force in this tradition.  The artisans maintain a generous attitude toward the accidental, embracing innovations that originate beyond the conscious domain.  They use approximate measurement, stepping up the order of variability by dealing creatively with the tricky piecing predicaments that ensue.  They use "flexible patterning," in which the design, conceived of as an invitation to variation, will not repeat, but will materialize in a sequence of visual elaborations.

Afro-traditional attitudes and methods are antithetical to the standard American quiltmaking tradition--practiced by both whites and blacks--in which great value is placed on precise measurement and exact pattern replication.  They bear keen likeness, however, to the improvisatory practices of the textiles-makers of Kongo and West Africa, regions from which American slaves were taken.  These antipathies and affinities suggest an enduring African influence on the Afro-traditional quilt.

My shows and catalogs celebrate the sophistication, vivacity and significance of improvisational African-American quilts, both as artistic achievemants and as expressions of African-American traditions.
African_American, Quilts, Eli Leon, Improvisational, Afro-American, Quilts,  Rosie Lee Tompkins, Arbie Williams, African American, Eli Leon,
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