A Utah quilter creates art, with a thread back to her Hawaiian culture, on display at Utah Museum of Fine Arts


Each artist, it doesn’t matter what the medium, has a supply of inspiration.

For Moanikeala Revoir, a quiltmaker who lives in Lehi, it was the intense flowers — birds of paradise — in her mom’s entrance yard in Hawaii, the place she grew up.

Revoir’s 1983 quilt “The Birds of Paradise” is on show in a brand new exhibition that opened this month on the Utah Museum of High quality Arts, accompanying a touring present from New York’s American Folks Artwork Museum, “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts.”

The touring exhibition options 18 quilts, spanning from the nineteenth century to the twenty first century. And, because the exhibition’s title suggests, quilts usually act as maps.

“They’ve motifs, they’ve symbols,” mentioned Luke Kelly, UMFA’s affiliate curator of collections. “They’re at coronary heart utilitarian to maintain households heat, nevertheless it was additionally a clean canvas for the creator or creators to essentially experiment [with] coloration and design motifs.”

And whereas quilts are normally considered for his or her practicality — padded fabric to cowl a mattress and supply heat — a number of the quilts within the touring exhibition problem the concept of what a quilt is and what supplies can be utilized in a single.

For instance, artist Jean-Marcel St. Jacques has made a profession of constructing quilts, like his “Opposite to Rumour; He wasn’t the satan,” from wooden scraps he finds within the Treme neighborhood of his house city, New Orleans — particles left behind from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Individuals tour the brand new exhibit on the Utah Museum of High quality Arts on the College of Utah entitled “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts,” on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

One other work, “Soldier’s Quilt,” by an unknown artist in India, is believed to have been made between 1850 and 1875, from the wool, buttons and different regalia of navy uniforms. Then there’s Drunell Levinson’s quilt, comprised of aluminum-wrapped condoms which might be tied collectively right into a blanket.

Quilts and Utah historical past

Within the accompanying exhibition of works from UMFA’s assortment, one of many featured works is Bao Lee’s “Hmong Story Fabric” (1985), which paperwork the journey of the Hmong individuals from southeast Asia to the USA within the aftermath of the Vietnam Battle. One other work within the UMFA-curated exhibition is “Three Quilt Designs,” artist Albert Charles Tissandler’s set of sketches of quilt patterns from Latter-day Saint pioneers from the Eighties.

Utah’s historical past of quilting goes again even earlier than the primary settlers arrived within the territory.

In 1830, Joseph Smith Jr. — the founding father of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — based the Aid Society, which was initially created to assist girls within the church study homemaking abilities, resembling quilting, in keeping with a 1996 thesis by Brigham Younger College pupil Helen-Louise Hancey.

Because the Saints moved west, Hancey wrote, “textiles have been very scarce” and “quilts have been typically wrapped round individuals and used as clothes.” The custom was handed down by way of generations, with “inspired use” of particular person sample and coloration. Finally, Latter-day Saint quilts developed in households from a supply of heat to inventive decor. (Hancey wrote that she picked up her mom’s knack for quilting, and that her mom’s quilts “have been a mirrored image of her life.”)

Quilts are credited with saving the lives of Utah pioneers within the winter of 1864-1865, when a snowstorm stranded the ravenous residents of the village of Fairview. A celebration of males tried to stroll to close by Parowan, however the snow within the cross was too deep. The boys took a quilt from a wagon, and laid it on the snow to wish. The boys noticed that they didn’t sink within the snow after they knelt on the quilt, so laid out extra quilts and made it over the cross to get provides. Thus the legend of the “Utah Quilt Stroll” was born, saving Fairview — now known as Panguitch, the place an annual Quilt Stroll is held each June.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Individuals tour the brand new exhibit on the Utah Museum of High quality Arts on the College of Utah entitled “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts,” on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

Completely different locations, completely different types

Completely different components of the world, and even completely different states, have their very own quilting traditions and types. Utah-based quilts, historically, are extra patchwork-oriented, with small items of cloth sewn collectively in patterns.

Revoir, who moved to Utah in 1965, mentioned she’s influenced by Utah’s model of quilting — noting that she realized her quilting abilities from a Utah neighbor, Ruth Elkington. And she or he known as Utah “the quilting capital of the world.”

Nonetheless, Revoir sticks to the Hawaiian model, which is “entire fabric, so that you’ve bought 4 layers: the highest half, which is a strong piece of cloth, and then you definitely’ve bought one other strong piece of cloth that your design is minimize out of, and it’s normally one thing from nature,” she mentioned. “You chop that out, sort of like a [paper] snowflake, and you set that on to the highest a part of the quilt and also you hand-stitch that down. After that, you may layer the again, the batting, after which the quilt high.”

It’s a labor-intensive course of that typically can take years. With “The Birds of Paradise,” although, she had a strict deadline. The Utah Division of Arts & Museum was on the lookout for a Hawaiian quilt, so Revoir labored 15-hour days, seven days every week, for 4 months straight.

“That is truly the very, very first quilt that anybody ever noticed outdoors of my household,” she mentioned, noting that she has three quilt tops her mom began however by no means bought to complete.

When “The Birds of Paradise” was carried out, Revoir mentioned, she needed to wash it as a result of she had left blood stains on the material from pricking her fingers a lot.

Birds of paradise are historically vivid orange, however for her quilt model, Revoir selected a medium-pink shade — and, fairly than a white background, which is conventional for Hawaiian quilts, she picked a lighter pink shade.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Museum of High quality Artwork presents “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts.” Pictured is Troopers Quilt comprised of navy uniforms relationship 1850-1875 with artist unidentified.

A way of belonging

Quilting isn’t only for older artists — youthful individuals are connecting with the craft, too, Revoir mentioned. Revoir, who teaches at a junior highschool in Lehi, as soon as had a bunch of scholars make round 25 quilts to donate to Major Youngsters’s Hospital.

It’s additionally not restricted to girls. A lot of Revoir’s male coworkers are quilters, she mentioned.

“You both love detailed minute work otherwise you don’t,” Revoir mentioned. “There’s a consolation that you just get from that. There’s the concept whoever goes to be utilizing your quilt goes to have it wrapped round them with love.”

Revoir — who will train a category on Hawaiian quilting and show extra of her quilts in an ACME session on the museum on April 14, supported by Craft Lake Metropolis — mentioned she hopes to maintain making quilts as items, and for herself, so long as she will be able to. She has a challenge she goals to deal with, to create a quilt for her daughter.

She mentioned she goals to proceed to make use of quilting as a type of communication. She has began so as to add small pockets on the backs of her quilts, to place handwritten letters. She additionally stitches her signature on every quilt she makes.

Quilting, Revoir mentioned, offers her a way of belonging, and a house away from house. “I can go anyplace on the planet and if I can discover a quilter, I’m instantly calm,” she mentioned.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A quilt made from aluminum-wrapped condoms by Drunell Levinson is a part of a brand new exhibit on the Utah Museum of High quality Arts on the College of Utah entitled “Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts,” pictured on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

Quilts as maps and as historical past

“Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts,” a touring exhibition by New York’s American Folks Artwork Museum, with assist from Worldwide Arts & Artists, a non-profit based mostly in Washington, D.C. UMFA has additionally curated an accompanying exhibition of quilting in Utah’s previous, with objects from the museum’s everlasting assortment.

The place • Utah Museum of High quality Arts, 410 Central Campus Drive, Salt Lake Metropolis.

When • Now by way of Might 15.

Hours • Tuesday by way of Sunday, 10 a.m. to five p.m., open till 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Closed Mondays.

Admission • $15.95 for adults; $12.95 for seniors and youth 6 to 18; free for kids 5 and underneath (accompanied by an grownup), UMFA members, College of Utah college students, workers and school, college students at public Utah universities, Utah Horizon/EBT/WIC cardholders, and energetic responsibility navy households. Free days on the primary Wednesday and third Saturday of the month.

Occasions • Go to umfa.utah.edu for details about occasions tied to the exhibition.

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