The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
Quilt Scout Interview with Susanne Jones (Part II)
In the previous Quilt Scout, I shared the first half of my conversation with fiber artist, author, and all around cool chick Susanne Jones about her journey as an artist.
In the second half of our conversation, Susanne talked with me about the must-see exhibit coming to fall Quilt Festival this year called “HERstory: A Celebration of Strong Women.” I’ve seen some of the quilts, myself and trust me: This exhibit is not to be missed.
Quilt Scout: So when did the concept of “HERstory” come to you?
Rosalynn Carter Explains to the Senate
by Luana RubinSusanne Jones: After the “Fly Me To The Moon” exhibit was complete and scheduled to be in Houston, I was working on the exhibit book. The presidential election was coming up and I was thinking about when I registered to vote, which happened to be on the anniversary of the 19th Amendment [which gave women the right to vote.] And when the idea came to me, it appeared in the polls that we were about to put the first woman in the White House. So all of that contributed to the idea for the show.
I put a call for entries on Facebook and contacted the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) to get the word out, too. The Quilt Show put the call in their mailing, and I reached out to all the artists in the “Fly Me To The Moon” exhibit.
QS: And people responded.
SJ: There were 175-ish quilts submitted from seven countries!
QS: Amazing. How did you define “strong women” for those who wanted to participate? Was there a list to choose from?
SJ: In the call, I asked those interested to first briefly tell me what their prospective subject’s accomplishment was. I wanted figures that had accomplished “firsts” for women. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were suggested, and though they were great actresses and beautiful women, they weren’t quite right for this. The actress Hedy Lamarr, however, did get approved. She basically invented Wi-Fi!
QS: Did you choose the quilts, then?
SJ: No, I didn’t jury the show. I maintain a private Facebook group for my artists to share ideas and get advice. It’s a tight group, and I sort of lurk and answer questions if needed, but because I’m seeing people’s process and so on, I don’t feel it’s fair to be a juror. SAQA President Lisa Ellis and author and Craftsy teacher Cyndi Souder chose the quilts.
QS: I’ve curated a couple exhibits at this point; it’s not as fun as people think it is! How many quilts made the cut?
Marian Anderson by Margaret WilliamsSJ: There are 107 quilts in the full show; 52 of which will be exhibited in Houston. And yes,
it was so painful when some of my favorites weren’t chosen! Truly, all of the quilts were amazing and there are so many styles represented. There’s thread painting, traditional quilting, Seminole design, a wide variety of techniques. I’m so blown away by the talent of these artists.
QS: So when people go into the exhibit, what will they see?
SJ: They’ll see works that represent a wide variety of incredible women—women they know and recognize right away, like Rosalynn Carter, Amelia Earhart, and Frida Kahlo. And they’ll see women whose names may be familiar, but not their faces—like Rosalind Franklin [a chemist known for her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA] and former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
Important artists like Louise Nevelson and Helen Hardin are represented. And there are portraits of women in the quilt world, too, including Anna Marie Peterson, who is 100 years old and still making art. Anna Marie will hopefully be at this fall’s show.
There’s a portrait of [Quilt Market/Festival founder] Karey Bresenhan, too. My dream is to get Karey to take a picture with her quilt.
QS: Hey, I know a guy over at Quilts, Inc.—I’ll see what I can do! How about diversity in the show? Did you actively strive for balance in that regard?
SJ: Absolutely. We were looking with an eye for women of color, women of all ages, women of all different nationalities. We strove to make the show as inclusive as possible.
QS: I think that’s so important, especially lately. An exhibit like this can bring people together; I really believe that. After Houston, what’s the plan for the exhibit?
SJ: I’m hoping it will be at other quilt shows. But these are such outstanding art pieces, I’d like them to reach a wider audience. I’d like to get the exhibit shown at the National Museum of Women In The Arts in D.C., the National Women’s History Museum in Alexandria, and maybe at women’s colleges, too.
QS: That would be so great. Anytime quilts can reach new audiences, it’s a huge win for everyone. And you mentioned another idea you had about the life of the exhibit...
Helen Hardin: Between Two Worlds
by Karen FisherSJ: Yes! The women honored in “HERstory” are only the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure that everyone can come up with ideas of women who were not included but should have been. Eventually, I’ll be offering trunk shows of the “HERstory” collection
and challenging guilds to create their own mini “HERstory” displays at their local shows.
I also plan to start an online gallery showing quilts honoring women who made groundbreaking achievements. People can contact me through my website for details about the trunk shows and the online gallery.
QS: Susanne, thank you so much for talking
with me. You go, girl.
See the “HERstory” exhibit at International Quilt Festival in Houston, November 2-5, 2017. And visit Susanne’s website for information on a call for her next exhibit, “OURstory: Human Rights Stories In Fabric.”