True brilliance is fleeting, it turns out, because the Infinite Variety quilt exhibit, featuring the collection of Joanna Rose, was on display here in New York city for only six days. It was phenomenal, and I hope that she, and the American Folk Art Museum can work out getting it on display elsewhere. But for now, let me show you some of the many, many pictures that I took of the display…
I’d learned about the exhibit a few months ago, when I received an email inviting me to a reception for Bryn Mawr alums. Joanna Rose, the collector of the 1000+ quilts (of which 650 were on display), graduated from BMC in ’52. The curator of the exhibit, Elizabeth Vogel Warren, graduated in ’72. (I graduated in ’99.) I RSVP’d as quickly as I could—I didn’t know more than that it would be a display of red and white quilts and that there would naturally be wine, as all good Bryn Mawr receptions have wine!
My friend Tina joined me, and we got there early so that we’d have time to see the quilts before the reception began. I had been told it was impressive, but only saw photos of it the morning I went, and I was kicking myself for not bringing all of my lenses along! As it was I had just the 30mm to work with.
Joanna says she bought most of the quilts at garage sales, estate sales, or along the side of the road—often for very little. One by one she grew a collection, and in the end I think the whole is far far greater than the sum of its parts.
The show, designed in every way from the lighting to the scaffolding, by Thinc Design, was placed in the Park Ave Armory as Joanna’s 80th birthday present from her husband; the fact that it was free was her gift to the city.
She didn’t speak at the reception, but she was there, a spitfire if you ever met one. She definitely embodied the Bryn Mawr spirit—the feisty woman who gets what she wants! Elizabeth Warren, the curator, mentioned that she had been at the exhibit every day not because she had to be, but because she was drawn to be.
I regretted that I couldn’t come back again before it would be taken down. I wanted to soak it all up more. The way the quilts were the same but different; the fact that you could identify certain motifs and traditions right there—every where you looked there was something else to see.