One of the highlights of my recent trip to San Francisco was seeing the Gee's Bend quilt exhibit at the de Young Museum. When I was a kid I went to the old de Young on a regular basis: I'm a native, this is my home town. They had an extensive collection of Asian art housed in what must've been one of the orignial structures in Golden Gate Park, which was damaged beyond repair during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The new building stands at the site of the old structure, and is a shiny and very modern-looking state of the art building. The Asian art collection has been moved to a new museum downtown (which is on my list of things to see on my next trip).
We had excellent timing when we got to the quilt exhibit because a docent tour had just started. The docent was very well informed about the exhibit, and related a lot of annecdotes about the quilters and about their life circumstances. This information was handy for Michael, who knew nothing about this thing I'd dragged him 300 miles to see, but he quickly understood the context of the work and some of the reasons why so many people appreciate it.
The quilts were very moving for me to see. My favorite piece was a quilt made from work pants, with all the variations of wear and color. To me it was a testimony to the maker's creative will to make something she needed out of what was at hand, and of the asthetic spark in what seem to be the most utilitarian acts. These works have a vitality that is impressive, and I'm convinced that this is due in large part to the spontineity that comes with irregularly-cut pieces. I think we should all try to make something without using rulers just to see what happens. The use of "forbidden" fabrics like polyester and courduroy also adds energy to these quilts. I'm predicting a resurgence in the popularity of polyester myself. I think it is underappreciated. No photos were allowed in the exhibit, but Michael bought me the beautiful book that documents it.
The new museum is wonderful, and sports a funny-looking observation tower which has a panoramic view of the city.
Here are some scenes from the Japanese Tea Garden next door.
Here are a few seasonal scenes from Union Square.
Merry Christmas Everyone!