Gallery Glance: “SAQA: Declaration of Sentiments” at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

“Still Marching,” a quilt by Rebecca Douglas, is part of the Studio Art Quilt Associates exhibit “Declaration of Sentiments” at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. (from the artist)

“Declaration of Sentiments,” an exhibit of 28 quilts by members of the Studio Art Quilt Associates, takes its title from the opening salvo in the fight for women’s rights.

“The Declaration of Sentiments” was a feisty, impassioned document drafted at the first women’s rights convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her,” the Declaration states, before enumerating a list of 16 facts or “sentiments” in support of this claim.

Women’s right to vote is first on the list. Other sentiments address women’s disadvantaged position in the spheres of marriage, divorce, property and employment. The final sentiment describes the toll of male tyranny on woman’s psyche: “He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”

In this centennial year of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the exhibit at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center celebrates women and documents their struggle through a wide variety of approaches to quilt making.

According to Susie Goodman, SAQA co-representative from Bloomington, Indiana, and a noted quilter, “We have hand dyed, painted, rusted, commercial and repurposed fabrics, silks, lace and nonconventional materials. Artists used paint sticks and pencils, surface design printing, photo-enhanced, raw-edge appliqué, pieced, embellished with thread and beads, machine and hand quilting.”

Goodman’s quilt, “Night Flight,” in “Declaration of Sentiments” is a cheery and fanciful depiction of female camaraderie rendered in hand-dyed and painted fabrics, batiks, raw edge appliqué, beading and quilting. The two figures represent Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt.

“They were friends,” Goodman said, “and once when at the White House celebrating Eleanor’s birthday, they decided to go on a night flight over the city.  Amelia quickly filed a flight plan and they were off!  Thus they are dressed for dinner and wearing matching scarves, as Amelia had gifted Eleanor one just like her own.”

“Still Marching,” by Columbia, Missouri-based Rebecca Douglas, is a masterpiece of applique in its portrayal of women through history marching with placards proclaiming their issues: voting rights, equal pay, Black Lives Matter. Amid a gathering that ranges from the original suffragettes to contemporary activists, the dominant figure in the composition is a Black woman wearing a sign, “We Shall Overcome.” The figures frame a handwritten text of the Declaration of Sentiments.

Goodman notes that some of the quilts in the exhibit celebrate women who were important role models, including Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sojourner Truth. “Still Marching” includes a depiction of Sojourner Truth uttering her famous line, “Ain’t I a Woman,” and an image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg wearing her judicial robes.

The Venus symbol anchors Karen Hampton’s “Campaign for Women’s Rights” quilt. It appears coupled with a peace sign in Terry Hartzel’s “Claiming Power” quilt.

“SAQA: Declaration of Sentiments” is a traveling exhibit that made its debut in Paducah, Kentucky, in fall 2017. The 25 fabric artists represented come from Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Ohio.

The Leedy-Voulkos has decided to represent the SAQA exhibition virtually for June and July. To view digital gallery, visit www.leedy-voulkos.com.

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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