UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ever present, never presented : Suzanne Lacy, feminism, and quilting Witkowski, Jacqueline


Seated at tables of four, over four hundred women aged 55-95 years old unfold tablecloths of yellow, red, and black. With their choreographed and synchronized gesturing hands, they mimic traditional Euro-American quilt patterns. This performance, titled The Crystal Quilt, was produced by Los Angeles-based artist Suzanne Lacy in 1987 as the culminating work to the two-year long, statewide initiative Whisper Minnesota (1985-1987). There is a continued resonance of the quilt in Lacy’s oeuvre, as The Crystal Quilt was the third project to reference quilts and quilt making. The first project, Evalina and I: Crimes, Quilts, Art (1975-78), and a smaller commemorative project (1980), employed tactile quilting projects instead of the conceptual quilt arrangement that Lacy would incorporate in 1987. The formal and historical attributes of this textile practice have been largely ignored in contemporary scholarship on the artist, thus raising the question of how this very specific medium encouraged her artistic and activist agenda. The primary focus of this thesis is an exploration of how Lacy mediates these two approaches, one of feminism and the other inspired by conceptual artist Allan Kaprow, through the medium of the quilt. Neither Lacy’s quilt works nor the use of craft during the second wave feminist movement has been sufficiently analyzed within craft scholarship. The thesis thus centers on the historical labor of quilting, its pedagogical and political aspects, the cross generational connection of feminism since 1987, and finally, the impact it currently has on quilt scholarship.

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