I went to an art museum again! Because of COVID guidelines, they had timed tickets, and the attendees were quite spread out. I could see the art without fighting for position, for once.
When the Bay Area jumped to the front of the line to shut down last March, there were two art exhibitions I had on my schedule that I was unable to see. One was sculpture by Carol Bove (bo-VAY), whom we knew when she was in elementary school with our son. That one, alas, is gone (but her work was in the niches outside the Met in NY last I heard). The other, quilts by Rosie Lee Tompkins, fortunately was kept on hold by Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), and we were able to see it today. Fanciers of quilts, especially quirky ones, are encouraged to make a visit!
Rosie Lee Tompkins is “widely considered to be among the most accomplished and inventive American quiltmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.”
This is from the introductory wall-blurb at the Berkeley Art Museum retrospective, which is the first time many of her quilts have been exhibited together, rather than one-off in group shows. “Rosie Lee Tompkins” is a pseudonym “adopted by” Effie Mae Howard, who was born in Arkansas in 1936 (you can see her name and that year embroidered into a couple of the quilts) but didn’t start quilting professionally until 1970, when she had moved to Richmond California. And a promising zinger from the end of that wall blurb (my emphasis):
This exhibition marks the first in a series celebrating the donation to BAMPFA of more than three thousand quilts by African American artists from the estate of Oakland-based collector Eli Leon.
The quilts are quirky and interesting. Some have a clear overall structure to them…
...others seem almost randomly pieced together.
Awhile ago, I read a story in the Post about Slow Art Day.
Studies suggest that the average museumgoer looks at an artwork for less than 30 seconds. And with crowds that seem to push you from one piece to the next, overwhelmingly large exhibitions, and a dismal lack of seating options, museum spaces sometimes seem to encourage this “more is more” ethos.
So I did sit for a good ten minutes and look at the way the quilt just above was put together, the two types of patches that dominate, how they are used separately and together, etc. I was surprised when I walked very close to it to see how different it looks close up. For one thing, it’s velvet/plush, almost entirely.
Mr pixxer thought many of these quilts were not as… something… composed? as the other “quirky quilt” exhibition (also by African-American artists) that we were privileged to see several years ago in SF, from the Gee’s Bend quilters. (You can see one example here). I really liked them one way or the other, and enjoyed this exhibition a lot.
Just gonna go with a few more photos here to show something of the range of quilts. The exhibit is open Fridays through Sundays just till the 18th of this month, so get on it! :)
I especially liked the way she often let a patch of bright color appear in the middle of nowhere.
One with a lot of obvious structure.
If you’re in the Bay Area, you have a couple more weekends to come and see this show. I felt quite safe, with everyone masked, and spread out in a high-ceilinged space. Adult tickets are only $10.