Critics’ Picks

  • Clara Nartey, Charleena, 2020, digitally-printed fabric, polyester felt, polyester interfacing, polyester thread, cotton, 40 x 30".

    Clara Nartey, Charleena, 2020, digitally-printed fabric, polyester felt, polyester interfacing, polyester thread, cotton, 40 x 30".

    Minneapolis

    “Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality”

    Textile Center
    3000 University Avenue SE
    September 15–December 24, 2020

    What will form the record of this, our unrelenting moment, in American history? Looking back, many of the objects that best captured the zeitgeist of their eras were traditional craft works such as the wampum beads and belts of the Haudenosaunee Nations, the story cloths of the Hmong people, and the wood carvings of Scandinavia, from the Vikings to the Slöjd tradition.

    After its hometown of Minneapolis became the epicenter of an international protest movement following the murder of George Floyd, the Textile Center teamed up with the Women of Color Quilters Network to copresent “Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality.” This national juried exhibition of twenty-six quilts “honors those whose lives were violently ended due to police negligence and brutality, and critiques the targeting and criminalization of Black bodies throughout history.”

    Taken together, the pieces presented are a powerful reminder of the raw emotional impact this too-long-underappreciated art form can convey. The dying word “Mama” is repeated to haunting effect in Last Cry (all works cited, 2020) by Cheryl M. Coulter, while the warm portraits of Linda R. Asbury’s Her Name is Beloved Speak Her Name: Secoriea Turner and Clara Nartey’s Charleena solemnly memorialize lives lost through unrelenting state-sanctioned violence. White gloves, crosses, and a list of names unite to create a ghostly testament of heartbreak in Janice Willis’s A Mother’s Lament.

    The exhibition, like a quilt, is a patchwork of techniques, approaches, and emotions, which range from pain and reflection to fury, confusion, and hope. This combination, as mercurial as it is poignant, reminds us of quilting’s legacy as a vital artistic document that, to this day, captures the lives and myriad experiences of African American women.