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ISSUE 118 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/25/2005

Patchwork of poems

By Stephanie Soucheray
Variety Editor

Friday, February 25, 2005

L. Teresa Church, poet and quilt-maker, opened her exhibit, appropriately titled “Quilts & Poetry” Friday, Feb. 18 in Dittmann Art Center. Church’s poetry was displayed on pillars, and her collection of homemade quilts were hung and draped over tables as Dittmann was transformed into a space conducive to what Church called “an event of word gifts.”

“I love the exhibit,” Annie Becker ‘07 said. “It really demonstrates the power of old fashioned crafts as art.”

Just in time for Black history month, Church’s exhibit focuses on the cultural legacy of quilting and story-telling – a tradition in which she was immersed during her childhood in Virginia. Showcasing quilts made by herself and family members, Church’s quilt collection is an eye-opener for anyone who assumes that “real” art is only found hanging in frames and not at the foot of the bed.

The quilts displayed in Dittmann have a lived in, labored over and loved quality that is deeply felt as observers glance around. Though some may think the exhibit too simple and unfinished, its no-frills attitude lends itself to the rural, Americana image of homespun arts and crafts. Lining the pillars of the exhibit are Church’s poems, which prove to be accessible yet insightful, relating Church’s coming of age and coming into her own as an artist.

All of the quilts displayed are named, and their materials, quilters and year created are all printed for viewers. Listing the year each quilt was made gives a chronological and personal foundation to the exhibit.

Often the most touching works were those made with found objects. A quilt made by Church in 1960, with bright red polka dots and hot pink strips of fabric which came from “old kitchen curtains,” epitomized the charm and homespun elegance of the exhibit.

Friday night’s opening, was, as Church put it, a “real event.” With students and professors alike dressed in traditional African garments, a buffet of African-American food, African drumming and a live poetry reading by Church, the opening night was infused with a party atmosphere. Church’s reading of her poems, including the lovely “Singing Among the Sages” – an ode to her rural childhood and the wise family members who surrounded her – was emotional without being overly sentimental. A highlight of her reading came when Church explained she was breaking with her normal free verse poems to read “Tippin’ Woman Blues,” a rollicking expression of her exploration of Blues poetry.

Church herself was a charming and gracious artist, who kept the poetry reading light even after serious poems were read, saying with a smile to the stone-faced audience, “You can clap if you want to.”

Along with the poetry reading, the Caribou dancers were featured, as was a khanga cloth collection. The exhibit runs through March 18 and is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. on the weekends.

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