First Person: ‘Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts’ By the American Folk Art Museum at the Park Avenue Armory

After writing about the special “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” event for Yahoo! Local, I decided it would be a great opportunity for a mother-daughter outing. On Saturday, March 26, my mother and I attended, in awe, the American Folk Art Museum ‘s presentation at the Park Avenue Armory.

The Atmosphere

As we walked into the Park Avenue Armory, our eyes were flooded with a sea of red and white. Everywhere you looked – up, down, left, right – there was a quilt. The majority of the quilts on display were hung in large spiral structures that dangled high in the air. The entire room was filled with several circular structures of quilts, towering three to six quilts high, all surrounding a larger center spiral of quilts. In the middle of the room lay a grouping of chairs with quilts delicately lain over them.

To the right were several stations where you could stop and purchase American Folk Art Museum memorabilia including buttons, nail files, necklaces, and scarves, all in red and white. Although food and drink were not allowed within the exhibit, the Butterfield Café was located in the back of the Park Avenue Armory that served high-priced salads, sushi, pastries and coffee.

The atmosphere was laid back and mesmerized. Most in attendance were middle-aged or older and predominantly women. There was an occasional couple in their 30s and only five children that I could see. Many avidly discussed the beauty of the quilts and the labor that went into its making. Others found inspiration for their own quilts while some reminisce of family and friends.

The Quilts

The immense variety at the ‘Infinite Variety’ show was amazing. Each quilt kept within the theme of red and white (with one exception that had yellow highlighting) and ranged from all different sizes. Most were white quilts with red accents or writing, but the occasional was the reverse. Quilt designs varied from busy and bold, to geometric or floral. Some quilts were delicate, others looked more robust. The ages of the quilts showed with some faded to a deep beige.

The vast majority looked like they were hand sewn and hand dyed. The expert technique of the quilters was evident in their ability to make simple fabric and thread appear like embroidery. One fellow admirer commented that the quilt was ‘so tightly quilted, it looked like it was crocheted.’

Some of the quilts displayed a piece of the quilter’s family history by using the family name and year it was made. One of my favorite quilts was a white quilt with red stars. The center of the quilt contained the family name and year. Around each star was quilted the names of different family members. The names and stars spread around the entire quilt. This quilter turned a boring family tree into a work of art.

Although my mother and I are not quilters, we do enjoy many other forms of crafts and have been to several craft shows through the years. We both truly enjoyed the “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” at the Park Avenue Armory and would like to thank the American Folk Art Museum for bringing such an event to New York City for free. I can’t wait to find out which 50 quilts made the cut to be part of a permanent exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum.

View my slideshow to see more pictures from the exhibit.