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30 Nov 2017

Critical Walk-Through: Katherine Knauer on the Politics of Quilting

Quilter Katherine Knauer will lead a tour through the War and Pieced exhibition, exploring the relationship between quilts, politics, remembrance, and war.

A Critical Walk-Through is a 40-minute guided tour that is meant to offer an alternative perspective to the works on view. They include conversations with artists, scholars, and curators, providing an intimate opportunity to engage with the central themes and histories found in the artwork. The program is limited to 25 individuals.


Artist Statement:
As a teenager during the Peace and Love years of the 1960s, I believed that war would end quickly. It seemed to me—a teenage girl living in a small, pretty resort town in Florida—so logical to think that peaceful negotiations would happen and resolve the fighting.

In the mid-80s, when the fighting hadn’t stopped and I was raising two young sons, I created a safe space to ponder the inevitability of war. In 1984, I began to print my own fabrics and started a series of quilts on the subject of war. I needed to be in a peaceful place—an almost trancelike state of mind brought on by repetitive work entailing multiple, infinitesimally, tiny decisions with each stitch (e.g., choosing how many stitches to take on a needle, determining if my seam was straight) to allow thoughts about the warlike nature of man to slip into my consciousness. The quilts that I made in that long series are not anti-war quilts; they are an acknowledgement of the fact that war has existed as long as human history has existed.

By designing fabric with war themes, I was able to confront my feelings about war. I think of my quiltmaking as “poor man’s psychotherapy.” In juxtaposing a medium conventionally associated with comfort and warmth against dynamic surface imagery concerning war, or (in a more recent series) environmental degradation, I felt that an extra layer of energy was infused into my work.

I am continually inspired by traditional textile techniques and feel a deep kinship with those craftspersons who have come before me—ranging from the weavers of the famous Paracas textile of two hundred years ago (in what is now Peru) to the school girls who stitched mourning samplers in the 1700s in colonial America to the anonymous quiltmakers who gave meaningful titles to their geometric patchwork—titles such as “Drunkard’s Path” or “Whig’s Defeat.”

I have always been drawn to representational art. Because quiltmaking is such a labor-intensive process, it gives me much time to ponder the subject of the imagery. I frequently handprint my own fabrics with themes taken from contemporary headlines, and often piece them together in a traditional quilt pattern.


Image: Katherine Knaeur, Conventional Forces, 1986, 84 in x 84 in. Photo by Schecter Lee.

6:00 pm–7:00 pm

$5 members, students, seniors; $8 non-members

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