Authors: Mimi and Peter Dow
BUFFALO, N.Y. (Buffalo Rising) | Inspired by the work of Harriet Powers (1837-1911) a former slave known for the rich stories embedded in her quilts, Jennifer Regan set out to use quilts a medium to tell her story and the stories that were important to her.
Who ever heard of Stitched Narratives? If you haven’t, a visit to the Burchfield Penney Art Center is a must. Installed in three galleries within the museum visitors find a treasure trove of works that explore the life’s work of Jennifer Regan. The Doolittle Gallery, Budin Corridor, and the Collection Study Room host a broad variety of the artist’s work and inspiration. Included in these spaces are also the archival materials that show how the artist moved from concept to realization.
These unique works of art celebrate an enormous variety of themes taken from art history, Western literature, Greek and Roman Mythology, the Bible, social justice, feminism, pop culture, as well as the personal history of the artist. Flavored with humor and an acerbic wit that conveys Regan’s unique view of life, literature and history, these works of art are a must see.
Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man becomes a woman and Mrs. Noah the heroine of Noah’s Ark. Elvis ascends from Graceland escorted by angels/his impersonators to meet his mother and an array of his spiritual forebears from the world of popular music. The ascension of Regan’s dog Madeleine is similarly celebrated surrounded by all the other dogs in her life.
The scope of the work can only be summed up in an article as each piece acts as a complete story. Regan’s concern for social justice issues comes through in an Aids quilt, a Homeless Womans’ quilt, and a street violence quilt. Numerous pieces are commentaries on her childhood, marriage, and divorce. Each work contains incredible detail of stitching, appliqué, beading, painting, and special effects like googlieyes, to get her messages across.
Often literary quotations and selections from her poetry are included as embroidery. This exhibit will be on display until January 28th, so give yourself a special treat and visit this extraordinary show. And don’t wait till the last minute as you may find yourself wanting to return several times to absorb fully the richness of this unique artistic experience.
Lead image: Cry Me Your Sorrows, Sing Me Your Dreams, 1990, Mixed media on fabric, including family photographs, cigar box favor rug, ex-husband’s shirt, sequins, beads. On loan from Regan family.