S2020 E491 | CLIP

NYC-ARTS Choice: "Crazy Quilt" at American Folk Art Museum

Curator Stacy C. Hollander talks to NYC-ARTS about the work "Crazy Quilt" by Clara Leon, which is in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum.

AIRED: May 07, 2020 | 0:03:58

>> Next, we'll visit the

American Folk Art Museum

located right across the

street from our Lincoln

Center Studios.

Since 1961, this museum

has been showcasing the

creativity of artists

whose talents have been

refined through personal

experience rather than

formal artistic training.

Its collection includes

more than 8,000 works of

art from four centuries

and nearly every


Curator Stacy Hollander

recently talked with

"NYC-Arts" about one of

the artworks from the

museum's collection.

>> The American Folk Art

Museum has one of the most

important collections of

quilts in the country, and

one of our most

significant recent

acquisitions is a Crazy

Quilt that was made by a

woman named Clara Leon.

Clara Leon was an

immigrant from Germany,

one of the thousands of

Jewish immigrants who came

to the United States in

the second half of the

19th century.

She landed in New York

City, met her husband,

Pincus Leon, and the two

of them moved to the New

Mexican territories, to

Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The quilt that Clara Leon

made, probably in the

1880s, reflects the idiom

of the Crazy Quilt.

This was a kind of

construction that was

introduced after the

American Centennial

Exposition that introduced

Japanese decorative arts

to American audiences for

the first time.

So, women saw porcelains

with crazed and crackled

surfaces and glazes and

exotic motifs like

spiderwebs and quarter

fans, and they very

quickly introduced this

new aesthetic into their

quilt making.

So Clara Leon, one of 36

Jewish families in the

pioneer frontier community

of Las Vegas, New Mexico,

coming to America without

a tradition of quilt

making at all, and

interpreted and adapted

the Crazy Quilt to reflect

this new aesthetic that

was introduced at the

Japanese pavilion of the

Philadelphia Centennial.

The center of the quilt is

emblazoned with a large

letter "L" for her family

name, Leon.

Also included is a musical

staff and notes, and this

reflects the musical

background of her family.

In fact, one of the

family's stories is that

when Clara and her family

made the journey by

covered wagon, included

onboard the covered wagon

was her piano.

Aesthetically, she did

something with the borders

that's unusual.

There is a floral band on

each side of the quilt,

and typically this would

be identical top, bottom,

left, right.

But in fact, she's

reflecting the seasons.

So there are autumn

leaves, spring flowers,

summer daisies, and winter


Quilts have always been a

medium for women to

express their own thoughts

and their own

participation in American


And Clara Leon clearly

took that to heart when

she decided what motifs

and what techniques were

going to be used in her

beautiful quilt.

♪♪ ♪


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