Published: November 14, 2006
Beginning Saturday, November 18, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center (SM&NC) will present the exhibition “Teresa Barkley: A Life in Quilts,” showcasing an extraordinary series from the artist’s more than 100 one-of-a kind creations executed over the past 35 years.
Besides their utilitarian uses, quilts have been considered an art form for years. But Barkley takes the medium to new heights by including in her fabric collages brilliant, insightful commentary on contemporary life, and current and historical events. Her unique works have been eagerly sought after by museums, universities, and corporate and individual collectors throughout the country.
Guest curator Susan Isaacs, professor of art history at Towson University in Maryland and adjunct curator at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, organized the show, which will be on display in SM&NC’s Bendel Mansion Museum galleries until April 1. On view will be 18 quilts dating from 1981 through 2002, which are representative of the artist’s style. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.
Barkley uses vintage fabrics, found objects, clothing labels and other materials in her quilts, which often follow a postage stamp compositional arrangement. “While patchwork is by its nature a collection of different materials, I carry the process a step further by incorporating ‘found object’ materials,” the artist explained. “I achieve a collage composition by joining new fabrics with such old materials as printed feed sacks, linen children’s book pages, old lace, canvas money bags and commemorative handkerchiefs.” Her quilts are machine-pieced, hand appliquéd and either machine or hand quilted.
Barkley believes that the found materials provide a link to the past, as do postage stamps, which were used to commemorate important events and individuals from the past. She says her use of signs and symbols also allow her to investigate emblematic approaches to her subjects, linking her to the longstanding American quilt tradition of women voicing their social and political agendas through textile works.
Barkley completed her first large-scale quilts while still in high school. The originality of her approach was immediately recognized, resulting in her inclusion in the 1976 exhibition, “The New American Quilt,” at the American Craft Museum in New York City (now the Museum of Arts & Design). Her works have also been featured in exhibitions in Africa, Australia, Europe and Japan.
In conjunction with the exhibition, SM&NC will present several programs and activities.
The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is at 39 Scofieldtown Road. For information, 203-322-1646 or www.stamfordmuseum.org.
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