When we think of a quilt, we think of patchwork and flannel, an everyday blanket spread across a bed for comfort and warmth.
However, an exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art titled “Beyond Comfort” is challenging the traditional definition of a quilt.
The exhibition, which opens Wednesday, features 30 original works from 26 artists hailing from 10 countries.
“These pieces are avante garde and experimental,” said Kathy Earnhart, public relations specialist for the museum. “These are not your traditional colonial quilts.”
The quilts in the exhibition explore themes ranging from political protest, to domestic violence, to religious persecution and environmental disaster.
The artistic materials run the gamut from traditional fabrics to unorthodox items such as fishing line, precious metals and recycled CDs.
The results are curious and intriguing.
A quilt titled “Black Hole #1,” for example, relies on plastic garbage bags, cotton fabric and ribbon to visually express the frustration of a creative mental block.
Another piece titled “The Army Wife: Hanging on by a Thread” features an apron-shaped quilt with a pair of hands that grasp to hold the fragments of life together.
A quilt titled “When Bees Disappear” uses metallic threads and hand applique to depict the tragic consequences of the vanishing bee population.
“Hidden Shame” tells the sad story of domestic abuse through stenciling and photo manipulation, and “You Knocked Me Off of My Feet” tells the tumultuous tale of job loss through bold shades of polyester tie fabric and hand-dyed discharged cotton.
“These pieces are all very unique and come from as far away as India,” Earnhart said. “The most local piece comes from an artist living in Shaker Heights.”
“Beyond Comfort” has appeared in galleries around the globe since 2010. The Butler showing, which ends March 10, marks one of the last stops on the world tour.
Marci McDade, editor of Fiberarts magazine, served as juror of the show, which was organized by Studio Art Quilt Associates, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989.