This is a relatively small gallery by New York public gallery standards.  It sits next door to the MOMA at 45 W 53rd Street. Here’s a little taste of what’s currently on offer there.

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I made three attempts to get up to the American Folk Art Museum to take these photos.  First time I overextended myself and walked from the West Village intending to get all of the way up to the Museum on 53rd street. I nearly passed out with exhaustion and sore feet by the time I got to Saks between 48th and 49th Streets, so abandoned the Museum until another day.  The second try I took a taxi and was all ready to photograph every quilt when my camera ran out of battery.  Third time lucky.  I mastered the subway (go me) and spent the best part of an afternoon soaking up this great museum and these quilts in particular.

The exhibition “Year of the Quilt” showcases the Museums extensive collection of quilts.  Here is just a small selection of them. For more detailed information see if you can get your hands on a copy of “Quilts. Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum” by Elizabeth Warren. Foreword by Martha Stewart.

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This quilt reminded me a bit of the Gee’s Bend Quilts.

 

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This one was called the ‘Freedom Quilt’ for obvious reasons.

 

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Double Wedding Ring Quilt.

 

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Slashed Star Quilt.

 

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This tiny display shows doll’s quilts, no larger than about 30cm x 30cm. Delightful.

 

 

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This magnificent quilt,made from a whole piece of white fabric, showed the technique of trapunto quilting or stuffed quilting.  The fabric is stuffed from the underside to create raised areas and thus gives the quilt beautiful textures. This technique was first used in Italy before the 14th Century.  As you can see this is only a small section of the quilt. The amount of work in a quilt like this is mind boggling. Obviously this 1796 quilter was not suffering from the 2010 ‘time poor’ syndrome.

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Reiter Family Album Quilt

Being an old quilter from way back it was wonderful to see so many gorgeous examples of this craft all in the one place. I appreciate the dedication required to see projects like these through to completion. These exhibitions serve to motivate communities of quilters to keep the skills alive. 

 

The Interior Spaces

The building is less than ten years old. Designers Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects incorporated lovely voids and enough space around the staircase to display individual, large and small  works from the collection.  Moving from one gallery to another is as much of a feast for the eyes as the exhibitions in the gallery spaces themselves.

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Forming the Figure. 

I’ve been an avid fan of Monty Don’s series “Around the World in 80 Gardens” since it went to air on ABC TV last year.  It features the “Rock Garden” at Chandigarh in India, a favourite of mine.  It’s 24 acres is host to more than two thousand hand made cement figures decorated with broken bits of china and glass and other found objects.  It is all the work of one man, Nek Chand.  He travelled the countryside as a road inspector on his bike and while about his job, he collected rocks, glass and china discarded along the roadside.  The figures were first formed in concrete over metal armatures and then decorated with these found objects.

Imagine my excitement when I found four figures from the garden tucked away in a corner of this exhibition.

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Nek Chand worked away in secret for many years before his project was discovered by the government in 1970.  It is a testament to the humanity of the Indian people that their support ensured that the garden would not be destroyed.  “Rock Garden” is now the second most visited tourist site in India.

 

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These little wooden painted figures just cracked me up.  They are all members of the Webb Family (date unknown) made in Kentucky in the Twentieth Century,

 

I hope that you make time to visit The American Folk Art Museum if you’re in New York.  Just make sure that when you leave this little gem of a museum, you take a backward glance at the facade. This description from the Museum website says it all.

“The lustrous, sculptural facade is the product of a manual fabrication process evocative of the hands-oriented approach characteristic of folk art; its panels are cast by pouring molten metal directly into gated forms on the concrete floor of the foundry. The faceted panels, which appear stonelike and metallic at the same time, create different visual effects catching the light of the sun as it rises and sets, east and west along 53rd Street.”    http://www.folkartmuseum.org/