What that Quilt Knows About Me explores the capacity of quilts to record and pass down community and family histories. Included in the exhibition is Dindga McCannon’s quilt-like piece Mary Lou Williams – Jazz Pianist. In this textile homage to “the greatest woman jazz pianist in the world,” the Harlem artist captures her neighborhood’s culturally rich environment while highlighting the vibrancy of Williams’s music and her contribution to the legacy of jazz.
In this program, McCannon will discuss the creative process behind the making of Mary Lou Williams – Jazz Pianist. She will share how she combines found objects, paint, photographs and fibers to create a powerful portrait of a Black woman artist and to tell her story.
Like McCannon, textile artist Aliyah Bonnette learned quilting from women in her family. “By incorporating the very fabrics and unfinished quilts [my late grandmother] touched and sewed herself [in the 1970’s], my practice becomes a space to stitch together the stories and memories of Black women across generations,” she stated.
Join McCannon and Bonnette for a dynamic conversation about the intuitive and improvisational art of quilting, moving across various techniques, materials and temporalities.
Moderated by writer and curator Dessane Lopez Cassell, this conversation explores the unique role of fabric, needle and thread in the production and transmission of African-American experiences and histories. With a focus on Black feminist imagination, this program will examine the historical significance of quiltmaking while revisiting women portraiture.
Space is limited; advance registration is required. Please consider making a donation when you register to support ongoing virtual programming. Instructions for joining with a Zoom link and password will be provided by email upon registration confirmation under “Additional Information.” Closed captioning will be provided in English. For questions or to request accessibility accommodations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born in New York City and raised in Harlem and the Bronx, Dindga McCannon came of age as an artist and young mother during the rise of feminist art in New York City and the civil rights movement across the nation. Dindga began her career studying under Harlem Renaissance artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Charles Alston, Richard Mayhew, and Al Loving at the Art Students League of New York and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. She went on to become a pillar of the influential African-American art collective Weusi, and later a co-founder of Where We At Black Women Artists, a noteworthy collective affiliated with the Black Arts Movement. Throughout Dindga’s career, she created space for her own artistic exploration while building a support network for generations of Black artists to follow.
McCannon’s use of oil painting, printmaking, and sewing made her an early influencer of textile assemblage, found-object quilting, and wearable art, all of which expand upon the legacy of African and African-American culture and historical memory, and are artforms that have gained new energy across today’s arts and cultural landscape. McCannon’s implementation of non-traditional materials, including personal objects, photographs, and ephemera draw the viewer into her world as she imbues her canvases and tapestries with the sounds, feelings, and vibrancy of her community and ancestors. Her works often focus on the history and stories of women — iconic public figures, unknown heroines, family, and friends who shape her vibrant universe.
McCannon’s work is in the public collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Michigan State University, among others. Her work has been included in recent exhibitions, including We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985 organized by the Brooklyn Museum; and Black Power at the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee.
Originally from North Carolina, Aliyah Bonnette is an improvisational quilter who combines textile manipulation and oil painting to present scenes of Black womanhood and diasporic identity. Aliyah is a 2021 Graduate of East Carolina University where she earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts.
Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York-based editor, writer, and curator. She gravitates towards moving image and visual art concerned with race, gender, decoloniality, and the politics of paradise. She’s particularly interest in voices from the African and Caribbean diasporas. As Editor-in-Chief of BlackStar’s journal, Seen, Cassell platforms film, art, and visual culture writing by and about people of color, carving out more opportunities for nuanced, slow journalism. Prior to joining Seen, she was the reviews editor at Hyperallergic, where she focused on championing writers and artists from underrepresented communities and growing the publication’s film coverage.
Cassell’s own writing has been featured in Hyperallergic, Film Comment, and catalogues issued by the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other publications. Additionally, she has curated exhibitions and screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Abrons Art Center/Metrograph, Anthology Film Archives, and the Black Women’s Film Conference, among others. Cassell has been part of the programming team for BlackStar Film Festival since 2018 and sits on the board of The Flaherty. In 2022, she was named a DOC NYC Documentary New Leader. Cassell has also produced and hosted podcasts and radio projects for Microsoft (in collaboration with Listen), Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Bay FM and Creative X (both South Africa). She has received scholarly awards and fellowships from the Ford Foundation and The Flaherty, the US Fulbright Commission, CUNY Graduate Center, and Oberlin College.
Left: Dindga McCannon, Mary Lou Williams–Jazz Pianist, United States, 2017, Mixed media, 31 x 44 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, Collection of Edward V. Blanchard, Jr. Right: Aliyah Bonnette, When The Kindred Go Marching In, 2021, Quilt with Oil.