Reading Club of Durango is having an inspiring year.
Unlike other book clubs, they only read one, sometimes two, books together at the beginning of their program year, then present programs on the theme chosen for the rest of their gatherings. This year’s theme is creative women, and it turns out the members are pretty creative themselves.
There were two short books to kick off the year, “The Guerilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art” and Anna Quindlen’s “How Reading Changed My Life.”
After reading “Guerilla Girls” – also the name of a 30-year-old group that works to bring a focus on gender and racial inequality in the fine arts – it’s apparent so-called “crafts,” often the only creative outlet many woman have been able to access, are undervalued and underappreciated.
And then the members were off.
Kathy Parcell explored the world and work of Pueblo potter Maria Martinez, also known as Maria of San Ildefonso and Pam Furze presented a lyrical program about poet Emily Dickinson. Deborah Barnes shared the work of female National Geographic photographers, and coming up are programs on American women artists, women songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s, choreographer Agnes DeMille, fashion designer Coco Chanel and contemporary women writers.
It may have been the show-and-tell before Dot Larson’s program on the social and political art of quilting that most illustrated the undervaluing aspect. Members brought one – or more – quilts to share, including quilts made by mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers reflecting different stages of American culture and personal history.
Carol Grenoble, hostess for the meeting, shared a piece handstitched by her mother.
During the Depression, women made do with what they had. Katherine Christensen has a family quilt made from scraps of worn-out men’s suits. (I actually have one made by my great-grandmother using the Army and Navy blankets her sons brought back from World War I. I always imagine her pride in their service to our country and her relief they came home when I look at it.)
Nancy Furry and Maile Kane both had Hawaii-related quilts. Furry’s was a historical artifact given to her and husband, Dean, as a wedding gift when they were living there before statehood. The quilt was handmade by a great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha in the 1880s. It was decorated with emblems of both Hawaii and England, which first colonized the island state. Kane’s quilts were more modern, one made by her mother, and Kane is working on another one now, and both contain extensive amounts of hand appliqué.
Lynn May displayed a quilt in the cheerful sunbonnet pattern made by her grandmother and great-grandmother. Ann Norris had both a wedding-pattern quilt made by her grandmother and another intricately embroidered with pink flowers. It was hard to imagine the time and attention to detail it took to create the intricate patterns.
Remember before 1959, when the U.S. only had 48 states? (Me neither, not because I wasn’t alive, but because I was too little to know stuff like that.) Sandra Mapel treasures a quilt made by her grandmother with 48 squares, with each featuring the state flower of one of those states.
President Mary Jane Basye showed quilts her mother made. Her mom didn’t start quilting until she was 70 and learned at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Basye started a lot younger and showed a pattern she is working on that turns a floral pattern into modern art. (I could not do something like that in a million years.)
Larson is also a quilter, and she took a look at both the history of quilting and the way women have used them to tell their stories and fight for social justice.
I have always loved quilts and understanding just how important they have been for those reasons makes me appreciate them even more. Larson talked about how quilts changed from a means of socialization (quilting bees) into a way to register their responses to major issues of the day in the 1800s, issues such as temperance, the suffrage movement and abolition of slavery. A more contemporary example would be the AIDs quilt, a portion of which has been displayed at the Durango Public Library several times. (The entire quilt was last shown in 1996 and it covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C.)
Quilting and textile art is crosscultural, and Larson finished her presentation talking about the arpilleras of Chile, who told the stories of the estimated 90,000 disappeared and killed loved ones under the government of Augusto Pinochet in their quilts. Their work is credited with being an important factor in the restoration of democracy to the country.
Will it snow or be sunny for these upcoming birthdays? Who knows? Just hope they’re fun for Ann Stringfellow, Linda Arndt, Gary Scott, Nik Stransky, Catherine Hawk, Sandy Newman, Ken Seay, Les Lundquist, Lin Lilley, Charlotte Pirnat, Mary Husemoller, Fausto Miranda, Katie Maxted, Brian Gouvreau, Ryan Phelps and Beverly Sinclair.
Special greetings go to the 29thers, those Leap Year babies who three out of every four years have to decide whether to celebrate on Feb. 28 or March 1 – David Smith, Mark S. Anderson, Robby Hoffman, Tricia Bayless and Ted Holteen.
I just realized this is the first year in almost 16 years of writing Neighbors I am not wishing Fred Kroeger a happy birthday. Now there’s a man who left a legacy.
Returning to a wintry anniversary celebration are John and Pati Sandhaus and David and Sharon Mantor.
This is a bittersweet anniversary wishes as well, as two long-time couples (65 years or more) have lost a spouse in the last year. So here’s thinking of you, Rosemary Farfel and Reid Ross. I hope it’s a day of remembering lots of wonderful times as well as the loss you suffered.
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