'Narrative Quilts' opens at Bates Museum of Art

Artist Michael Cummings will discuss his Narrative Quilts exhibit at the Bates College Museum of Art at 7 p.m. on Jan. 9 in Room 104 of the Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St. A reception for the artist, cosponsored by the African-American Studies Program at Bates, will immediately follow in the Museum of Art. The public is invited and admission is free.

Cummings, whose solo exhibitions include the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Cinque Gallery and the Akron Art Museum, interprets the traditional process of quilting by appliqueing a story with brilliantly colored and differently textured cloth onto a background.

Narrative Quilts is composed of vivacious, provocative and sensitive narratives that often depict Cummings’ life experiences as an African-American artist,” said Susan Detwiler, a 1997 Bates graduate from Bedford, N.H., who organized the exhibit as part of an internship at the museum. The exhibit includes “Take My Brother Home,” a series that portrays Cummings’ view of the African-American community under attack; “Grandma’s Porch,” a quilt based on the glowing childhood memory of his own grandmother; and “Kitty and the Fireflies in the Bush,” Cummings’ impression of a lost cat in Central Park, influenced by his own transition from Los Angeles to New York City.

Cummings, whose works are part of permanent collections at the California Afro-American Museum, the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and the American Craft Museum, grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by Southwestern folk art and Meso-American imagery. When he moved to New York City, he absorbed new influences and created a varied artistic style. Although he received his formal training in painting, he embraced other media and combines painting with his knowledge of folk art to create vibrant cloth quilts. Cummings has stepped beyond the traditional boundaries of the medium, but he often includes patches of antique quilts within his narratives, thereby acknowledging the historical context of quilting.

On view in the museum’s lower gallery are highlights from the permanent collection and an exhibition of figure studies.

The public is invited to enjoy these exhibitions free of charge. The Museum of Art is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Schools and other groups are welcome by appointment. For more information or to schedule a group tour, call 207-786-6158.

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