museum exhibitions

Off the Wall: Maverick Quilts

Like with folk sculpture or painting, there’s a sense of play and infectious fun in these quirky, eccentric, and very personal antique "Maverick" quilts.

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Off the Wall: Maverick Quilts

Some quilts are ambitiously accomplished, holding their own with the best examples of decorative art. Such quilts belie the notion of the unsophisticated American quilter “throwing scraps together” for economy. These breathtaking works of extraordinary complexity and richness will always find appreciation and be valued as manifestations of the artistic spirit.

Less noticed are the unusual, quirky examples of the unpretentious utility quilt. That is, some quilts were made for everyday use, but created with a refreshing originality.

Working within the conventions of the common quilt, some women have been inspired to extend the implications of traditional quilt patterns and to make them somehow their own.

Like folk sculpture or painting, these quilts appeal to almost everyone, although they are often original in unfamiliar ways. Their sense of fun and play is infectious. We have chosen to call these “Maverick” quilts.

Although some are very well made, maverick quilts are unlikely to be shown for the skill with which they were crafted.

Some have been passed over as “unworthy” even at flea markets. What they share, however, is an unusual twist on the ordinary, a verve and a gritty individuality rarely found in more studied and self-conscious quilts.

Because they have been so little valued, utility quilts rarely have any history attached to them. So we do not know if the particularly exciting ones were created out of inspiration, necessity or momentary whim.

We do not know if the techniques or patterns they employ were the result of misunderstandings of the normal way of quiltmaking, or a conscious rejection of it. In any case, the maverick examples in the exhibition demonstrate that original, unique works of art may be as close as the blanket you sleep under.