Pattern and Paradox: The Quilts of Amish Women

March 28, 2024 – August 26, 2024
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Unidentified Maker​​, Crazy Star; ca. 1920​​, Arthur, Illinois​​, cotton and wool; 74 x 63 ½ in. (detail), Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown, Promised gift to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

Cunniffe Galleries

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Explore the creative practice of Amish quilters in the United States. Pattern and Paradox: The Quilts of Amish Women looks beyond quilting as a utilitarian practice. It reveals historical quilting among the Amish as an aesthetic endeavor that walked a line between cultural and individual expression. The quilts paradoxically twin the plain with the spectacular, tradition with innovation, and a dismissal of personal pride with objects often seen as extraordinary artworks.

Although vintage quilts remain among the most recognized manifestations of Amish culture, they represent the historical, localized trends of only a finite period from a living and changing culture. Pattern and Paradox celebrates the quilts, the women who made them, and considers their unique role in American art today, roughly a century after the quilts in this collection were made.