The Mississippi Museum of Art curated 12 separate art exhibitions in honor of the state’s bicentennial. The Union County Heritage Museum in New Albany, only 45 minutes east of Oxford, is hosting one of these events.
“Voices in the Threads: Quilts from the Mississippi Museum of Art” will be on display at the Heritage Museum until the end of February. This exhibition focuses on the art of quilting’s impact on Mississippi’s history, especially among women.
“There’s such a history with this craft,” Elizabeth Abston, curator of the collection for the Mississippi Museum of Art, said. “It’s a really beautiful merging of European and African traditions.”
Filled with color and intricate design, quilts require incredible amounts of time, focus and skill to complete.
Quilting is the process of sewing together multiple layers of fabric to form a much larger blanket. This labor-intensive artform is often done by groups of women and has historically served a powerful social role.
Before women had the right to vote or other civil rights, quilting provided them the opportunity to publicly express their thoughts and ideas. Often it allowed women to informally meet together without men present. A necessity, these warm blankets became beautiful and lasting tributes to female creativity and power.
Many of the quilts on display at the Heritage Museum are the work of the Crossroads Quilters, based in Port Gibson, who sell their work through the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads. This group is dedicated to continuing the quilting tradition while also stimulating the local economy.
All of the quilts in the exhibition are part of the Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
“We have over 90 quilts in our collection. … Most of them were made within the past 30 years,” Abston said.
Mississippi Museum of Art purchases several quilts from the Crossroads Quilters each year. The quilts featured are relatively young – the oldest one is from the late 1970s. However, these quilts were made in similar styles and with similar techniques to older quilts.
“Voices in the Thread” also features the work of longtime Jackson resident Gwendolyn Magee, an internationally renowned textile artist. Magee, now deceased, used bold and expressive color throughout her work. Many of her pieces depict the African-American experience, both in Mississippi and nationally. Her use of fabric confronts issues of prejudice, incarceration and the continuation of Confederate symbols on the state’s flag.
Other exhibits in coordination with the bicentennial celebration are happening all over the state during 2018. Further details about the Mississippi Museum of Art and its other exhibitions can be found at msmuseumart.org.
“Voices in the Threads” is free to the public and will be on display at the Heritage Museum through March 1, 2018. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Further details can be found at ucheritagemuseum.com.