Patterns of Life

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is proud to present these quilts from the Museum's permanent collection made by African American artists.

By San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Hit Or Miss, One Patch (1995) by Geraldine NashSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Geraldine Nash

Geraldine Nash is a native of Claiborne County, Mississippi. Growing up on a farm outside of Port Gibson. She was one of eleven children and her mother was an active quilter. 

Nash quilted on a regular basis in order to create covers for her children's beds. Nash did some quilting as a child with her mother, but she soon became more interested in sewing. She learned to sew through taking classes in junior high and with a sewing machine bought for her by her parents, she became busy sewing for family and friends.

Nash creates quilts utilizing traditional patterns, but uses unique combinations of color and incorporates new components to the older styles. She also makes quilts using her own designs, including appliqued quilts that feature family members or scenes from local life.

In 1988, Nash began work at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in Port Gibson as a part-time child care worker. Master quilter Hystercine Rankin was working at MCC during this time and Nash began to learn quilting from her. Later on the two formed Crossroads Quilters, a group of Claiborne County-based quilters that works with MCC to offer quilting instruction to people of all ages.

Pinwheel (1990) by Geraldine NashSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Geraldine Nash creates quilts utilizing traditional patterns, but uses unique combinations of color and incorporates new components to the older styles.

One Patch Quilt (1990) by Hystercine RankinSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Hystercine Rankin

Hystercine(pronounced "Her-teh-seen") Rankin (1929-2010) learned quilting from her grandmother at the age of 12 and started making quilts to keep her family warm. 

Rankin made traditional quilts like the log cabin, but created her own unique versions of them, utilizing colors and shapes to create distinctive works. Hystercine Rankin was born September 11, 1929, on a farm in the Blue Hill community of Jefferson County, Mississippi.

Rankin was not afraid of mixing patterns and color. We see that in this quilt made sometime in the 1980s or early 1990s. This one patch squares has two inner borders of triangles, resulting in a fun play of design.

Center Medallion (1990) by Hystercine RankinSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Another quilt by Rankin shows a fun use of color mixed with her innovative design.

Rankin has been recognized for her achievements by several agencies. The Mississippi Arts Commission awarded her the Susan B. Herron Fellowship in 1991. Her work has been displayed in touring exhibitions mounted by Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and others. She served as a demonstrator at the 1996 Festival of American Folklife in Washington D.C. And in 1997, she was a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dream Quilt (1989) by Hystercine RankinSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

"Dream Quilt" made by Hystercine Rankin in 1989.

A strip quilt of multi-colored pieces with navy blue sashing.

Ten Commandments (1990) by Hystercine RankinSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

"Ten Commandments" by Hystercine Rankin

Rankin also included the text in each panel.

Puss in the Corner (1996) by Hystercine RankinSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

"Puss in the Corner" quilt with various floral fabrics.

Two sided Jesus Quilt (1990) by Susie PorterSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Susie Porter

Known for her "Black Jesus" quilt, Susie Porter creates unique art quilts using her own design and patterns. This "Two Sided Jesus Quilt", demonstrates her skill and American pride. 

One side shows Porters faith and elements of her life the other side has a full figure depiction of Jesus. Porter is part of an African American Quilter’s Group in Mississippi.

Harriet Powers Story Quilt (Reproduction) (1994) by Harriet PowersSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Harriet Powers

A Smithsonian reproduction of Harriet Powers original “Story Quilt”. Harriet Powers was born a slave and lived near Athens, Georgia. In 1886 when Harriet was 49 years old, she had finished her first quilt to exhibit at the Clarke County Cotton Fair. She combined the African style of applique, with European style stitching to create unique “story quilts” which are preserved today as remarkable pieces of both folk art, and history. 

Briefly, the subjects are Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a continuance of Paradise with Eve and a son, Satan amidst the seven stars, Cain killing his brother Abel, Cain goes into the land of Nod to get a wife, Jacob's dream, the baptism of Christ, the crucifixion, Judas Iscariot and the thirty pieces of silver, the Last Supper, and the Holy Family.

Credits: Story

Photography by James Dewrance

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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