VINCENT JACKSON For the press
Chase Jackson never dabbled in quilts, but she knew that items most commonly used as warm bed blankets can double as works of art, too.
Jackson, executive director of the Ocean City Arts Center, proves her point this month with an exhibition called “Stitched Stories: An Exhibition of African American Quilters & Fiber Artists from New Jersey” which runs until July 29. .
The exhibition features 20 works by 12 artists and fills the entire second floor of the gallery. A “Meet the Artists” reception is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. Friday in the second-floor gallery at 1735 Simpson Ave. Concerned citizens of Whitesboro and the Cape May County NAACP are hosting the reception, Jackson said. The exhibit is cross-cultural and will hopefully stimulate communication and interaction, Jackson said.
“It’s African-American centered, but it’s for everyone,” Jackson said. “Some of these quilts are really thought-provoking.”
Jackson went online, typed in “African American quilters from New Jersey,” and discovered the Princeton Sankofa Stitchers Modern Quilters Guild in central Jersey. She previously worked in Newark, so she was familiar with the other guild featured on the show, the Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild of North Jersey.
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Textile artist and Newark native Glendora Simonson, a member of the Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild, is one of the artists on display. Simonson, 64, learned to sew as a schoolgirl from her mother. All of her quilts have been within the past 30 years.
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“I like to create things, more than with fibers, but with (also) baking and cooking,” Simonson said. “I’m motivated, compelled to do it.”
Simonson has three quilts in the show.
“Motherless Child” was inspired by the separation and inhumane treatment of migrant children on this country’s southern border and includes images of paper dolls, a notice of sale of a small child as well as African tribes captured in the Atlantic slave trade.
“Traveling Shoes” depicts memories of Simonson’s travels to South Carolina with his mother and pays homage to the civil rights movement by featuring the shoes of protest marchers and the young victims of the Washington bombing. church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
Simonson’s third piece is not a quilt at all, but a doll. “Ode to Market Street” was inspired by the book “On Market Street” by Anita and Arnold Lobel. The doll is adorned with a variety of desserts from head to toe in fiber.
All of the Simonson fiber art on display was created within the last five years.
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“They show up well. I think it reflects an evolution of the quilts I make,” Simonson said of her submissions. “I created ‘Motherless Child’ and ‘Traveling Shoes’ to have meaning Deeper.”
In addition to artists from both guilds, Jackson’s exhibit features work by Philadelphia fiber artist Christina Johnson and two sisters, Barbara Imes Jorden and Jacqueline Imes Jenkins, of Franklinville, Gloucester County.
For years, Jordan, 84, sewed. She made clothes for her daughter and herself. She didn’t start quilting until 1989, when she started taking evening classes at a local high school.
Jorden has received requests to have his quilts exhibited across the country. She and her sister designed and made a quilt in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
Jorden has three quilts on display in the exhibit.
“Ladies of Faith” was among those that made the cut. Every Sunday many years ago, Jorden and his sister would visit both their grandmothers and their great aunts after church. Unfortunately, her grandmothers and great aunts did not live long enough to see the quilt completed.
“It’s a nice thing to do. We make art quilts,” as opposed to bedspreads, Jorden said. “There’s a big difference. I made a quilt that I’m still trying to get to (former President) Barack Obama.