Shows and Exhibits, WCQN

Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part II

When I finally sit down in front of my laptop and open my blog (after a hiatus) the decision is: do I catch up on my blogging buddies posts first or do I write a new post. I am just going to go ahead and write a new post otherwise I will get distracted again (smile).

Here goes Part II, continuing the story I started in the post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West show opening weekend, Part I, about the opening weekend of the Women of Color Quilting Network show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West at the James Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida where my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet was showing.

At opening on Friday Sept 9, 2022

Friday September 9th was the opening reception, and on Saturday September 10 there was a “Meet the Artists” event allowing show attendees to chat with and ask the artists questions.

For the “Meet the Artist” event, the museum lined up chairs by each piece so the artist could take a break and sit down during the 2+ hours talking to the public and signing books.

I talked to a lot of people about my quilt. I was especially touched by a mother and daughter duo who told me that my piece was the reason why they came to the show. As I shared in the post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West (upcoming exhibit)., my piece was used in the advertisement for the show. See more about the advertisement for the show at the end of this post.

I also had a wonderful conversation with young lady who asked me about how I became an artist. I think she was a preteen. I could tell she was a budding artist and in addition to answering her questions, I had her share her own artist journey to date. She had me sign her book and then brought her sisters by to have me sign their books also.

In addition to chatting with show attendees, I had fun chatting with my fellow artists in our little “pod” in the corner of the exhibit. Here they are hanging out or signing books for show attendees (we signed a lot of books!):

Wow there was some tremendous talent at the show. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I viewed at the show.

Artist: Carolyn Crump

I always “fan girl out” when I see Carolyn’s work. It is otherworldly!

Artist: Dorothy Burge

Dorothy Burge spoke at the Artist Panel during the Artist Brunch on Sunday and shared in detail the story of the amazing woman featured in her piece. I love how the quilt is only the figure of Mary Fields with no additional background.

Artist: Viola Burley Leak

The above 5 quilts were breathtaking in person, the photos do not them justice. The Watts Riot piece was huge and the colors were so vivid and powerful in person, a real masterpiece! I got to chat with the artist and she shared some of the daunting challenges of creating this piece.

Here is a little gallery below of more amazing art quilts at the show depicting the lives of Black Pioneers in the American West:

If you’d like to see all the quilts and read their full Artist Statement, the exhibit catalogue is available for Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West by contacting the gift shop at the James Museum at (727) 892-4200.

It was such an amazing show. Here is a photo taken by the James Museum’s photographer and posted on the museum’s facebook page of the entire group of artists that attended:

image credit: James Museum facebook page

Postscript

I mentioned earlier in this post that my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet was used as advertisement for the show originally (eventually they added other quilts to the advertisement or replaced my quilt).

image credit – The James Museum
image credit – James Museum facebook page

As a result my quilt was featured in press/media about the show. Below are a couple examples:

The Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) Exhibitions webpage:

image credit: SAQA website

The Visit St. Pete (St. Petersburg)/Clearwater visitor website:

image credit – visit st pete clearwater website

WUSF Public Media (St. Petersburg area NPR station):

image credit – WUSF website

Local Today/Oklahoma News:

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter:

I accidentally found most of these when I was googling the show; and my friend Wendy sent me the SAQA one.

Here is a local television news story about the exhibit before the show officially opened:

You get a brief glimpse of my quilt for a moment. I saw this clip before I attended the show opening and got to see my quilt had a freestanding wall all to itself!

Special Events, WCQN

Update on the Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet Quilt

This is a follow up to my November 2021 post Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West (upcoming exhibit).

The Women of Color Quilting Network (WCQN) show at the The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art does not open until September 2022 but the museum had a recent fundraising event for the exhibition and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi the head of the WCQN attended and took photos.

Included in the photos she shared on her Facebook page was an image of my quilt Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet.

image credit: Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi

Since the quilt has officially been shown to the public, plus it is the featured quilt on the museum’s website advertisement for the show (see thejamesmuseum.org/special-exhibitions/, and scroll down to “Upcoming”), I figure I can share a full image of the quilt and my Artist Statement:

LANGSTON HUGHES, PIONEER POET

 This quilt is part of the Women of Color Quilting Network’s Traveling Show – “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West”

52″ W x 52″ L cotton, cotton flannel, image transfer fabric

THE STORY OF THIS PIECE:

Decades before the political rhetoric of “Make America Great Again”, American poet, novelist, activist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) challenged us to “Let America Be America Again” in his poem named the same .

Langston Hughes was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s (Smithsonian.com) and his writings focused on the African American experience. He wrote the poem that inspired this quilt, Let America Be America Again, in 1935. It was first published by Esquire magazine in 1936 (classicesquire.com). Langston Hughes has a special significance to my family: he is the namesake of the first grandchild born into our family, Langston, named after his late grandmother Gina’s favorite poet.

This quilt shares the opening four lines of the poem’s first stanza which challenges “let America be the dream it used to be (for)…the pioneer”. These four lines are followed by a powerful statement in parenthesis: “(America was never America to me)”, summarizing the plight of African Americans historically not having access to the “American American .  The entire poem is powerful and worth a full reading (poem resource: Poets.org).

Using a B&W public archive image from the Smithsonian taken by photographer Carl Van Vechten in 1939, I recreated in cotton fabrics and image transfer fabric, a section of the scene from that photo, creatively reimagining his shirt to contain words representing he was a writer. In the backdrop of the image of Langston Hughes is the American Flag merged with African fabric to represent his African American heritage. The quilt is also bound with African fabric. Across the top of his hat I placed the word from the poem “pioneer” as I see Langston Hughes as a “Pioneer Poet”. He was the “pioneer on the plain” of writing relevant to the African American experience.

“Let America Be America Again” was written in 1935, however it remains quite relevant in 2021.

In addition to sharing on this blog post, I’ve also added the image of the quilt and the Artist Statement to my Portfolio page on my website, under the “Special Stories” section; as well as update to my News page (updates on my “textile art adventures”).

After the show Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West opens at The James Museum (show runs September 3, 2022 – January 8, 2023), it will begin a national tour through 2025.

According to Collections Manager at The James Museum, my piece Langston Hughes, Pioneer Poet will travel with the show to the following locations:

Additional venues into 2025 are currently being explored.

If you’d like to read Langston Hughes’ poem that inspired this quilt – Let America Be America Again – you can read the entire poem at this website: poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again