Quilting is a skill that was carried to the New World by immigrants. However, in the almost two and a half centuries since the colonies became states, quilting evolved into a uniquely American tradition. Most early quilts were not the thrifty creations of hard-strapped settlers, but elegant, complex compositions that commemorated significant life events and were reserved for the family’s best bed.
Arkansas quilts pre-dating 1850 are rare; the majority of surviving 19th century quilts were produced in the last quarter of the century by the hard-working wives and daughters of independent yeoman farmers. Despite the demands of daily life, Arkansas women found time to create some of the most exquisitely crafted quilts in the entire country.
This exhibit tells the story of quilting in Arkansas through a selection of the museum’s most treasured bed covers. On display in Cabe Gallery from through October 2021.
The phrase “gone to seed” usually implies that something is past its prime: commercial agriculture deems flawed fruit and vegetables useless, no longer profitable, or spoiled. With this in mind, Gone to Seed may seem like a strange exhibit title. Susan Chambers portrays every plant in orderly perfection, and Aaron Calvert forms each wild animal sculpture with intention and care. But beneath the thrilling flash of saturated colors and ornate surface designs, you will discover thoughtful consideration of our complex connection to plants, animals, and other living creatures.
Both artists are curious observers, and their art practices are deeply rooted in positive, life-affirming relationships with the outdoors. They investigate the hybrid environment we all inhabit: an overlapping patchwork of manicured lawns and uncultivated terrain, simultaneously subdued and untamed. The subjects of Susan and Aaron’s artworks -- the quiet gardener with her native plants -- the hollow gaze of a squirrel or raccoon caught up in human chaos -- subtly communicate our profound entanglement with the natural world, and the importance of (at least occasionally) relinquishing control and allowing things to go to seed. Flawless flowers inevitably shatter and wilt; unblemished fruit eventually shrivels and rots; but seeds always emerge as a promise of continuity and renewal.
Aaron Calvert holds a BFA from Kent State University and an MFA in Ceramics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He is a Professor of Art at Henderson State University. Susan Chambers earned a BA from Rhodes College and an MFA in Drawing and Painting from University of Georgia, Athens. She worked as an art educator in Little Rock and the Arkansas Delta for many years before retiring to pursue painting full-time; Susan is represented by Boswell Mourot Fine Art in Little Rock and Justus Fine Art Gallery in Hot Springs.