There are only a few art forms that I think of as uniquely American - jazz for example. I also would have placed quilting in this group, but it turns out that is all wrong. Early quilts, more functional than decorative, were used in Egypt, Asia, and Europe centuries before European settlers arrived in America. Decorative quilts came later - part of an Italian one from the mid-1800s can be seen in chair-backs in the Bargello Museum in Florence; it is one of the oldest surviving quilts (and also gave name to a particular wavy pattern used in quilting). So much for quilting being an original American craft!
Still, the last type of art show I expected to find in Italy was an exhibition of quilts, and so the announcement for the Quilt Art in Lucca exhibition surprised and intrigued me. Quilt is, clearly, an English word (though derived from Latin meaning “to stuff”). It turns out there is no equivalent word in Italian. The promotional materials for the quilt show mention “piccoli pezzi di stoffa” (little pieces of cloth), but “quilt” is the word they use to describe the beautiful whole pieces that evolve from those little pieces of cloth.
The mostra (exhibit or show) contained a wide variety of quilts - from traditional patchwork styles to modern abstract pieces, to quilts with almost photographic detail, and quilts using multi-materials. Some were small to medium pieces, designed as wall hangings, while some were much larger. No matter the size, all were gorgeous enough to display as art.
Enhancing this vibrant visual display of color and pattern was the setting - the Casa di Boia (Executioner’s House), a restored building rising right through Lucca’s famous wall. The quilts were displayed in the section lying beneath the walls, with its stone walls and arches. I can’t imagine a more perfect setting for this first-ever quilt show in Lucca. With an active group of quilters living here, and a lovely quilt shop in town, this will be an annual event. I will look forward to next year’s show. -post by JMB