“Czech Contemporary Quilt”: An Artistic Tradition In The Making
Image via Czech Center New York
The name of the exhibition, “Czech Contemporary Quilt,” hosted by the Czech Center of New York, touches upon the three terms which have contributed, and still contribute, to the development of the flourishing artistic tradition of quilts. Following the dissolution of the USSR in the 1990s, eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, were introduced to the cultures of the Western world. The arts of the United States and western Europe were now accessible to citizens of the Czech Republic.
Historically, quilting is part of the American tradition. The western European community began to appreciate quilting as an art form following World War II, based on American influences. Due to the dire conditions in the Czech Republic in the second half of the 20th century, there was little space for quilting to be fully appreciated. The necessity for clothing and textiles trumped the opportunity for Czechs to participate in its artistic expression. However, one thing afforded by the economic strains of the communist regime was that most households had a sewing machine.
After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, when the Czech Republic was freed from the control of the Soviet Union, mothers, sisters, and daughters alike recognized the artistry of their work; sewing was not only a functional skill but a craft. With their newfound freedoms, Czech women had the practical skills, creative potential, and the desire to begin their own quilt-making tradition.
Beginning the 2000s, simultaneously to the country’s own cultural development, Czech women were undertaking their own artistic project: to construct a quilting community in the Czech Republic. With little support, education, or experience, the sisterhood organized itself over the following decades. The community expanded its numbers, became recognized in the European quilting sphere, and experimented with its own definition of quilting as an art form.
Contemporary Czech quilting is now at the forefront of quilting. Czech artists have taken another step towards legitimizing their art by presenting their quilts to American audiences for the first time. Thirteen chosen quilters from around the Czech Republic comprise the exhibition “Czech Contemporary Quilt.” Opened on June 30th, the exhibition will last until September 2nd, 2022 (Czech Center New York).
Despite only existing for the last twenty years, Czech artists have not only integrated, but have pioneered the storied art of quilt-making. Each artisan is actively expanding the boundaries of what constitutes a quilt, how it should be constructed, and why it is included in the tradition.