The doleful stare of an 11-year-old boy aged beyond his years caught the eye of artist Patricia Kennedy-Zafred as she looked through the public domain images catalogued by the Library of Congress. The 1908 image by photographer Lewis W. Hine made her stop and wonder what someone so young had experienced to make him so serious.
“This particular quilt, Glimpse of Daylight: The Boys of the Mines, is an expression of a historical period in time, when children were a major part of the work force in the mines, factories, canneries and fields across America,” Kennedy-Zafred said. The boys who toiled in the mines worked long hours underground, never attending school beyond the first few grades.
“Often times, these boys were supporting other family members – mothers, younger siblings – after the injury or death of their father,” Kennedy-Zafred added. “During this time, there was no Social Security, no disability or insurance. If a child was injured or killed in the mine, it was easy enough to find a replacement, unfortunately.”
Kennedy-Zafred’s quilt is a good example of the types of quilts contained in the Schweinfurth Art Center’s latest exhibition, Quilts=Art=Quilts 2018. The show features art quilts, not the traditional bed quilts most people picture when they hear the word. Entries in the juried show feature portraits, geometric designs, bright colors, and more.
Art quilts grew out of the great quilt revival that dates back to the 1960s. The genre is
distinguished by an emphasis on original designs featuring color, pattern, shape, and line. Work can be abstract or representational. Many art quilts include hand dyed, painted, or printed fabrics along with elaborate hand or machine quilting.
Kennedy-Zafred takes extra steps in preparing her quilts because of their unique focus. She first conducts extensive research into the topic she has chosen, to locate background information and additional images to use. She then hand-dyes her fabrics, choosing colors to set the mood.
“The images are silkscreened onto the fabric; the language is added with photo transfer papers” she said. “My favorite part of the process is dyeing the fabric and the printing process. Both have sort of a magical quality.”
Kennedy-Zafred tends to work in series, noting that she has created several quilts on the topic of child labor. Other quilts focus on doffer boys from cotton mills, shuckers from canneries on the Atlantic coast and newsies from East Coast cities.
“Children in America today do not realize that their lives could have been so different,” she said. “These pieces have resonated particularly with students who have seen them during school tours.”
Kennedy-Zafred’s work has appeared in previous Quilts=Art=Quilts shows. She said she always considers entering her work because “it is a high caliber exhibition, presenting the work of well-known, innovative quilt artists from around the world. The jury panels are always impressive.
“In addition, the Schweinfurth Art Center is a beautiful venue, and presents the work in a professional, artistic format,” she continued. “The installation of QAQ is a cut above.”
Quilts=Art=Quilts will be on display from Oct. 27, 2018, through Jan. 6, 2019, at the Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn. A free opening reception will be 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Admission to the show is $10 a person; free for members, participating artists, and children 12 and under.
Also on display from Nov. 2, 2018, through Jan. 6, 2019, is the Schweinfurth’s new Member Show, which features the creativity of 124 of the art center’s members. This show is included in the admission for Quilts=Art=Quilts.
When: Oct. 27, 2018, through Jan. 6, 2019
Where: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn
Opening: Free reception will be 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018
Hours: Art center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays
Cost: $10 a person, which includes accompanying Member Show; free for members, participating artists, and children 12 and under