Nancy Crow's Yellow Crosses

Nancy Crow's Yellow Crosses

Yellow Crosses IV by Nancy Crow

Nancy Crow, Yellow Crosses IV (detail), 1985; cotton, cotton blends; strip-pieced, pieced, hand quilted; 82 x 82 in. Photo: George Erml

One of my all-time favorite quilting books is Nancy Crow’s Quilts and Influences. Published in 1990 by the American Quilter's Society, the book is an assemblage of reflections by Crow on her work alongside photographs of objects that have influenced her artistically. The beauty is in the modesty of the book; mixing history, personal narrative, and an almost religious devotion to art, Crow explains her astonishingly complex quilting methods while discussing her upbringing, interests, and challenges she has endured as an artist. It’s no wonder Crow was a major force behind the resurgence of quilting as an art form starting in the 1980s.

With an exhibition of her work - both old and new - opening at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan today, this week’s throwback is to Crow’s magnificent Yellow Crosses quilt series from 1985. As Crow explains in Quilts and Influences:

I was emotionally burnt-out when I started this series in 1985 and was not even sure I could go through another new struggle to make a quilt. Instinctively I felt I had to start over again and start out simply. I knew I had to work with crosses, so I decided each quilt in the series would start with a simple structure of yellow crosses. I used as many yellow and gold fabrics as I had collected over the years and cut out long narrow rectangles and pinned them up on the wall to form crosses.

Just putting up these simple crosses to indicate the final size of each quilt was therapeutic. I let them stay there…solitary…for several days so I could react to their shapes against the white spaces of the wall behind. I remember thinking that the colors were so lush, so warm, but I wanted the crosses to symbolize the burdens that people must bare during their lifetimes. Burdens of sorrow, burdens of fear, burdens of guilt, burdens of all types.

The final quilt in the series, Yellow Crosses IV, was featured in the American Craft Council's 1987 exhibition “Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical” at the American Craft Museum in New York. “Nancy Crow: Transformational Quilts” is on view at the Muskegon Museum of Art through October 26, 2014.

Throwback Thursday is a weekly series highlighting visuals from the American Craft Council Library's Digital Collections database. Check back on Thursdays for more.