Apple Tree

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Top By: Pauline Parker
Quilted By: Pauline Parker
Period: 1976-1999
Date: 1987
Location Made: United States
Project Name: Michigan Quilt Project
Contributor: Michigan State University Museum
ID Number: 15.0001
Layout Format: Pictorial
Quilt Size: 52" x 82"
Purpose or Function: Art or personal expression
Other Notes: Nature quilt: beige stripe background, tree, sun, birds in nest., Pauline Parker: “One morning I woke up and saw the apple trees in full bloom and I thought this is wonderful, what can I do to celebrate it? And I thought at once of making a quilt. I didn’t know how to make a quilt, I’d been a landscape painter specializing in oil and watercolor for 40 years. I’d just retired from 20 years of teaching art in high school. I knew there ought to be a sun behind the apple tree, so I cut all the fabric into pieces, set them beside the sewing machine and just started sewing them together. But it didn’t make a quilt. So I started over, this time making objects instead of square patches. I finally had four quilts. I thought these are great, better have a show. But to fill out a show, I would need the best thing I could do. The epic stories from the Bible seemed to fit the broad swatches of fabric.” Artist Background: Pauline wrote, “My mother came from a large German farm family in Southern Illinois where she and all her sisters made quilts. I started making quilts when I retired from teaching art in high school. Working with the fabric was fun but I found that when the quilt lay on the bed, I couldn’t really see the patterns. So I started hanging them on the wall. Then I saw how the patches of fabric could tell stories. The materials with their patterns and textures had the strength of somebody else’s creative thought. They made me do things I hadn’t thought of doing before. After a while it was a real merry-go-round. The large patches of fabric seemed good for telling big stories.” Artist Pauline Parker was a lifelong painter from her childhood in Alton, Illinois, into her nineties in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied landscape painting at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 30's, taking paints and paper into the city streets. She never minded attracting a crowd while she worked, whether in the squares of Mexico or the hills of Wisconsin. Her painting has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and around the midwest where she lived from 1915 to 2013. In her later years she also took up quilt making, turning large compositions into lively vehicles for storytelling. She'd grown up sewing clothes for herself and her family and now her love of fabric and pattern was released to serve her imagination. Often something found like an old lace dress, stimulated a whole composition, or a brash spree of patterns told a story that she couldn't ignore. Misprinted fabric, un-dyed textiles, cloth bacon wrappers, cut up clothing all turned into narrative visions. Buttons, bones, feathers, torn salvage, old lace and really anything that could be sewn down was her medium, the stranger the better. Her stories ranged from Old Testament tales to special places whose architecture described worlds. Tales of women wove through many of her compositions. Trees, birds, flowers and animals that surrounded her life in rural Wisconsin often opened the door into her rich sense of fantasy where her storytelling ran wild. In her quilts she left behind the reality of landscape in her painting and let her imagination take flight. What carries through from her painting is an extravagant expression of color and texture undiminished by rules of propriety. Her vision was the whole reason for being.
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