Artistic Endeavors – Soldier’s Joy

Since I’m on a mission this year to look for inspiration in art, I thought I’d share my finds with you. I can’t promise one every week, but I’ll try. First up is the recent “War and Pieced” exhibit that features quilts made of military fabrics by soldiers during wartime, principally the 19th century.  Military fabrics then were scraps of wool felt from uniforms.

War and Pieced installation at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square).

The use of wool felt allowed makers to butt pieces together without seam allowances. The felt pieces used are extremely small, some no more than one inch square.

Artist unidentified, Soldier’s Mosaic Stars Quilt (Found in Germantown, Pennsylvania, late 19th century), wool, 77 1/4 x 62 3/4 in (Collection International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

It seems hard to believe that soldiers had the time and inclination to take on such large projects, but I have to recall that 19th century warfare was different than today’s. The bright colors used for uniforms were to help soldiers identify the locations of their own troops, not to conceal like today’s camouflage outfits. The painting below seems to indicate that sewing helped some convalescing soldiers while away the time.

More photos are at the exhibit’s website. Hyperallergenic has some lovely large photos of select pieces as well.

Annette Gero, an Australian whose collection forms part of the exhibit, has published a 2015 book, “Wartime Quilts: Appliqués and Geometric Masterpieces From Military Fabrics,” which traces a history of war quilts. I don’t know who carries it in the U.S. Amazon certainly doesn’t.

While I’m thrilled that these quilts are in the spotlight, the 1970s feminist side of me thinks, wouldn’t you know it, the big ticket exhibit features quilts made by men.

The exhibit, which was at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, just closed, but you can catch it next at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Lincoln–Nebraska from May 25–September 16, 2018.

9 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

9 responses to “Artistic Endeavors – Soldier’s Joy

  1. I never really considered: “The bright colors used for uniforms were to help soldiers identify the locations of their own troops, not to conceal like today’s camouflage outfits.” I wonder if today soldiers would even be allow to keep or cut up uniforms for personal creations; I’m thinking government issued, government owed. Though I think a quilt made of drab camo fatigues would better convey the ugliness of war.

    • It was an eye opener for me to realize that the red coats had a non-decorative purpose. I don’t know if modern soldiers can keep their clothes. I know my father wore his WWII leather flight jacket for years after his service, and the family used his khaki green wool blanket.

  2. The quilts are very good, maybe the next exhibition will feature work by women.

  3. I’m eager to see this exhibit in Lincoln. I follow the folk art museum on Instagram and have been enjoying their photos. Thanks for the review.

  4. Rats–I wish I’d known about this exhibition sooner–I love that museum and would’ve made an effort. We saw an exhibition a couple years ago that focused on Civil War textiles–some were quilts made by soldiers but much of it was focused on women’s work to support the war. From a feminist point of view, I thought that was a good balance.

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