'Yvonne Wells: Quilted Messages' opens Oct. 7 at Quilt Museum

Released on 09/30/2011, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, through Feb. 26, 2012

WHERE: International Quilt Study Center and Museum, 1523 N. 33rd Street

Lincoln, Neb., September 30th, 2011 —
"Being in Total Control of Herself," Yvonne Wells, 1990
"Noah's Ark," Yvonne Wells, 1988
"The Gossip Quilt," Yvonne Wells, 1987

            The International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present the exhibition "Yvonne Wells: Quilted Messages" opening on Oct. 7 and running through Feb. 26. It will introduce visitors to the quilts of Yvonne Wells, an influential and prolific contemporary folk artist.

            Wells is African American, but does not use 'African American quiltmaker' as her primary identity. For her, the term glosses over the individual vision expressed in her work. Instead, Wells calls herself an artist who makes folk art and her medium is quilts. Her story and picture quilts express her spirituality, humor and experiences. She makes her quilts for herself, to satisfy the need to create, to express something she wants to say. Her work is exhibited in galleries, included in museum collections, and acquired by folk art collectors.

            The exhibition will also introduce museum visitors to the center's Robert and Helen Cargo Collection of African-American Quilts. The Cargo Collection is important because of its status as one of only a handful of well-documented African-American quilt collections. African-American quilts began to grow in popularity in the mid-1960s with the advent of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alabama and more recently, through the well-publicized exhibitions of quilts made by women in Gee’s Bend, Ala.

            Wells' story quilts, while visually related to these southern traditions, are distinct in their self-conscious creation as folk art narratives. Wells' quilts tell unique American stories, including those Wells herself experienced. She is personally familiar with the struggles of the civil rights movement and the exploitation of black and Native American populations. Wells also expresses her sense of humor and spirituality in her quilts, making it easy for audiences to connect to her work. Her skills illustrate the importance of storytelling and pictorial quilts as a means of visual communication.

            Wells is the winner of the 1998 Alabama Arts award and Visual Craftsmanship Award. The exhibition is curated by Jill Kessler, 2011 textile history/quilt studies graduate, and Jonathan Gregory, assistant curator of exhibitions.

            Programming (free with admission) during the exhibition includes:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, 3:30 p.m. -- Public lecture, Pearlie Johnson, assistant professor of Pan African Studies, University of Louisville, "African American Quilts: Teaching the Past Through Quilting," as part of the UNL Institute for Ethnic Studies 40th Anniversary.
  • Friday, Nov. 4, 5-6:30 p.m. -- Meet the student curator, Jill Kessler (free museum admission 4:30-7 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. -- Storytelling in the gallery with artist Yvonne Wells.
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m.-noon or 2-4 p.m. -- Workshop for children, "My Doll and I Discover Quilts Tell Stories" Sheila Green instructor, reservations required, call 402-472-6549.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31, noon -- Tuesday Talk, Marin Hanson, curator of exhibitions, "The Robert and Helen Cargo Collection of African American Quilts."
  • Friday, Feb. 3, 5:30 p.m. -- Public lecture, Jeannette Eileen Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies at UNL and Jill Kessler, UNL Black History Month lecture, "Being in Total Control of Herself: The Story Quilts of Yvonne Wells" (free museum admission 4:30-7 p.m.).

            This exhibition is made possible with support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Friends of the IQSCM. Public programs are funded in part by the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

            The museum, 1523 N. 33rd St., is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. Public tours are offered free with admission Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11 a.m. and on Saturdays at 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.quiltstudy.org.

Writer: Maureen Ose