Not Your Grandmother's Quilts in an Exhibition on Gun Violence

Outline on Asphalt by quiltmaker B.J. Adams (Greg Staley Photography)

The timing is, sadly, just right for a new show at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. It’s called Guns: Loaded Conversations, and if you think quilts are just a collage of pretty patches for beds, museum director Nancy Bavor says think again.

“They are not your grandmother’s quilts," Bavor says. "But what I like to remind people, is that quilt makers for 200 years created political quilts with a wide range of opinions on many different topics."

Quilts were sold in the early 19th century to raise funds for the abolitionist movement, and of course gay rights activist Cleve Jones conceived of the Names Project and AIDS Memorial Quilt in San Francisco in the mid-1980s.

Bavor told me this gun violence show, organized by  Studio Art Quilt Associates, has been in the planning for two years. It's their way of marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. But the horrors of Las Vegas and Parkland High School have made the exhibition even more relevant.

Michele Mackinen's quilt is part of the exhibition 'Guns: Loaded Conversations' at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Michele Mackinen's quilt is part of the exhibition 'Guns: Loaded Conversations' at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (Monika Wulfers)

My co-host Nick Abraham, a junior at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, notes he joined a walk-out from his school on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. He was also glad to see the work by Oakland quiltmaker Alice Beasley called Remembering Trayvon, honoring the Florida teenager killed by a vigilante -- an acknowledgment of the issues surrounding racially-motivated shootings.

Sponsored

The museum is also featuring a parallel exhibition by the Bay Area’s Social Justice Sewing Academy, featuring cross-stitch and quilting by young people around the Bay Area whose work focuses on social justice issues. It's also sponsoring discussions on the second amendment and a gun buyback in which each person handing over a gun will get some money and a handmade quilt. Much cozier than the gun.

The exhibition Guns: Loaded Conversations continues at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles through July 15.

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