Just as quilts have many layers, so do the stories that go behind them. The “Full Spectrum” exhibit in the Binghamton University Art Museum unravels the colorful threads to uncover the life behind the fabric.
The museum tour begins at the lower level of the Art Museum with “Vibrations: Color Resonance in Antique Quilts,” where most of the history lies. Amish quilts that date back to 1860 still hang, preserved in the Kenneth C. Lindsay Art and Study Room.
Owned by Gerald Roy of the Pilgrim/Roy Collection, the quilts were made by the Amish and Mennonite quilters of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“The quilters were so aware of the pattern, and even after 150 years the colors are still so bright,” said Keith Knee, a senior political science major and intern at the Art Museum.
The second stop on the tour is the main room, which houses the “Contemporary Quilt Show” part of the exhibit. These quilts, all made after 1945, are similar to photographs and paintings with their intricate stitching and detail.
According to Jack Braunstein, director of development for the Art Museum and curator of this part of the exhibit, “The quilts touch upon beauty — the truest measure of fine art.”
“These quilts take traditional designs … and modernize them by taking different variations on classic patterns,” Braunstein said.
One quilt, entitled “Red Vibrations” by Ethel Whittemore, is designed with the common log cabin pattern, but slants it in a way that gives it modernity. Its use of vibrant color also makes it more relatable to the younger generation.
“When looking at this some may think, ‘Am I tripping on acid?’ But no, it’s just a quilt.” Knee said.
Another quilt, entitled “Rundy” by Marilyn Belford, was inspired by a photograph taken of a man in her studio wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. To add realism to the quilt, Belford sewed actual pieces of denim to recreate the look of a cowboy or farmer.
“She has made this person in the photograph come to life. Her technique of turning the fabrics backward and forward creates a shadow element that makes it so real,” Knee said.
Completing the “Full Spectrum,” the final stop on the tour includes an exhibit entitled “The Evolution of Natural Fibers,” curated by Jackie Hogan, assistant director of the Art Museum. Here, viewers can learn about fibers such as cotton, wool, linen and silk.
“It shows the process the quilts take from the seed, silkworm, flax plant or animal hair,” Braunstein said.
The actual fibers make an appearance on this level with signs that say “please touch” and encourage viewers to feel the different textures. Tying the whole quilt experience together, it gives the title “Full Spectrum” its final bit of clarity.
“You can clearly see the evolution in the quilts, even if you are a novice,” Knee said.
The museum’s new exhibit also includes the debut of a cell phone tour. This cell phone audio tour includes the quilters’ voices explaining details about their work in the “Contemporary Quilt Show” and Gerald Roy talking about the antique quilts.
“Aside from using one’s cell minutes, it is free,” Braunstein said.
In addition to the “Full Spectrum” show, there are various rooms in the museum that include pieces from their permanent collection.
“There are over 3,000 artifacts owned by the museum. We have pieces that date back 800 years and some from the eighth century,” Braunstein, said. “We have gems here and we want people to know about them.”
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The “Full Spectrum” exhibit will run until Dec. 5.