Museum of International Folk Art

Quilts of Southwest China Coming to Santa Fe This Summer

March 17, 2017


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 17, 2017 (Santa Fe, NM)—Embodying layers of history, identity, expertise, and culture, the Museum of International Folk Art announced today it will host the national touring exhibition of Quilts of Southwest China beginning July 9, 2017 through January 21, 2018.  While both highly-valued and culturally significant, Chinese quilts have received little attention from scholars, collectors, and museums and little is known about them outside of the communities that make them.

“American audiences are often surprised by the diversity of patchwork and quilting traditions found around the world,” said Carrie Hertz, curator at the Museum of International Folk Art. “Patchwork, however, is an apt metaphor for the type of cross-cultural collaboration that we aspire to with projects like Quilts of Southwest China. Not only does this exhibition feature visually stunning and expertly made artworks, it also represents the combined efforts of many individuals and institutions striving to understand and learn from each other, culminating in something new and exciting.”

The tradition and skill behind production of these beautiful and functional textiles offers insight into local cultural history and how contemporary communities are adapting to a period of great change in China. In specific minority communities in Southwest China, women make quilts as demonstrations of their skill, from pieced, appliqued and embroidered fabric.  The quilts may be part of their dowries, decorate wedding beds, welcome the birth of children or serve as precious family heirlooms. Designs and symbols draw creatively upon local beliefs, stories and tastes. With the influx of commercially manufactured textiles and clothing into rural communities, the making of quilts has declined and fewer individuals have the knowledge to continue the tradition. The research and collecting done for this exhibition presents some of the first documentation of the making and use of this meaningful, yet disappearing, art form. The project team hopes this work will lay the groundwork for further investigation and cross-cultural conversation.

Quilts of Southwest China is divided into three sections: Introduction: focuses on the communities that make the decorative bedcovers, demonstrating the importance of textiles to the local cultural identity. Designs and Meaning: offers an overview of forms, designs, symbols, motifs and tools as well as examples of how quilts are made and used. The Future of Chinese Quilts: highlights three contemporary artists seeking new opportunities to continue the quilting tradition, including examples of their work and video profiles.

Quilts of Southwest China is organized through an international collaborative partnership led by the Michigan State University Museum (MSUM). The project to collect and research Chinese bedcovers emerged from initiatives between the American Folklore Society and the Chinese Folklore Society to cultivate scholarly exchanges and cross-cultural collaborative projects. In addition to MOIFA and MSUM, other project partners include the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University, Guangxi Nationalities Museum, Yunnan Nationalities Museum, Guizhou Nationalities Museum, and the International Quilt Study Center Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Works featured in the exhibition come from the collections of MOIFA, MSUM, the partnering Chinese museums, and private lenders. A new bilingual publication (in English and Mandarin) accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition will also include a Reading Room with resource materials for further exploration.

Photo Credits from top: Woman’s Upper Garment. Artist unknown. Small Flower Miao, c. 1984. Near Guiding, Guizhou Province, China. Cotton, silk. Collection of the Museum of International Folk Art, gift of Phila L. McDaniel, A.2004.5.1. Image courtesy of the Museum of International Folk Art.

Mo Aiqun. Miao, 1970s-1980s. 55” x 38 ½”. Gulong, Huangping County, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province, China. Cotton. Hand piecing, foundation piecing, hand appliqué. Collection of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum. Image courtesy of Michigan State University Museum. 

Media Contact: Jennifer Padilla 505-577-1347

MUSEUM OF INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Museum of International Folk Art’s mission is "to enrich the human spirit by connecting people with the arts, traditions and cultures of the world." Founded in 1953 by Florence Dibell Bartlett, the museum holds the world’s largest international folk art collection of more than 150,000 objects from six continents and over 150 nations. 

Related Photos

Woman’s Upper Garment
Zhuang Bed Cover
Woman’s Shoes
Sha Sha Bed Cover
Mo Aiqun Bedcover
Miao Bedcover

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