Chicago; her husband, photographer Donald Woodman; and Judy Kovler, Sam Steinberg and Patrice Emrie from the Belen, N.M.-based Through the Flower attended the Feb. 26 announcement at UofL’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts. Several of the quilts were on display for the event.
The colorful array of individual, interchangeable 2-foot triangles represents a wide range of techniques and of stories from makers who answered Chicago’s invitation to submit quilts of that size honoring women of their choice. The artwork was created in 1980 and accompanied Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” a worldwide traveling exhibition celebrating women’s achievements throughout history.
“I can’t tell you how grateful we are for this amazing gift,” Provost Shirley Willihnganz said. Besides the opportunity to display the quilts later as an artistic treasure, the gift provides “enormous opportunities for research here at the university and enormous opportunities for us to partner with other organizations,” she said.
Quilt depictions range from world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II and Mother Teresa, well-known figures such as author Agatha Christie and groups such as the League of Women Voters to the mothers, grandmothers, artists and teachers who influenced the quilters. Most quilts are accompanied by descriptions of their makers and subjects; Marilee Schmit Nason originally cataloged the works and provided registrarial materials that are a part of the gift.
Recognized quilt expert and Kentucky Quilt Project Inc. founder Shelly Zegart of Louisville, who met Chicago during a 1985 Louisville visit, was instrumental in arranging the gift to UofL.
“I am honored to have been the catalyst to bring the ‘International Honor Quilt’ to Kentucky, a state well-known for its quiltmaking traditions and activities,” Zegart said.
“The ‘International Honor Quilt’ is more than just an artifact to hang in a museum, but a living and breathing testament to women’s worth and power to change society. And Louisville is the perfect place for it to live and grow in its impact,” she said.
Chicago spoke about the need to overcome the “erasure from history” of women’s achievements and the desire to have those accomplishments “institutionally preserved.”
“It is through institutions that history is transmitted, that art is transmitted and that women’s achievements become known,” she said in her presentation.
“It’s fabulous that attention is going to be called to women known and unknown through the ‘International Honor Quilt’ at the University of Louisville,” Chicago said. “It seems like the absolute perfect place.”