Monday, February 16, 2009

Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America

I Netflixed the DVD of Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America. See, Netflix has this neato feature where it suggests films like the films you add to your queue. So I added The Art of Qulting, American Quilts, and A Century of Quilts due to their inclusion in the listing of quilt-related special events accompanying the Bowers Museum's exhibit American Quilts: Two Hundred Years of Tradition, which I've discussed previously.

Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America is NOT being shown at the Bowers. But it did pop up as a suggestion on Netflix. Smart Bowers. Bad Netflix. I know my mom always said, "If you have nothing nice to say, keep your trap shut." But she usually said that right before launching into a tirade enumerating all of the not so nice things she had to say.

First of all, from a purely aesthetic perspective, this video looked like it was made by your uncle with his home video camera. The lighting is tragic. The focus is myopic. I defy your uncle to edit something as badly as this is edited. For example, a person will be talking about a specific quilt and instead of just showing the darned quilt, it cycles through a number of quilts NONE of which could possibly the the one the person is talking about. So sad. I was SHOCKED to discover this was made in 1995. The quality of home video in 1995 was better than this.

Second, the "experts" are all quilt sellers hawking their wares. So it kind of seems like a series of those poor quality local advertisements you see on local stations in non-prime time. This is as much my problem with commercialism in art as it is the producer's selection of characters . . . no, in 1995 there were non-commercial quilt experts out there, weren't there? Regardless, rather than focusing solely on the traditional Amish quilts that really gave Amish quilt makers their reputation, most of the interviews focused on quilt store owners who exploited Amish and Mennonite women's labor to produce handmade quilts from fabric and patterns supplied by the owners. You can see the puffy polyester batting and the shiny, unnatural fiber fabric. This is not the stuff of the 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition.

All my crankiness aside, there were a couple of quilt hawkers who specialized in antique quilts that really were quite impressive, though I'm not sure any one of them would make watching the whole sixty minute nightmare worthwhile. And the, possibly spurious, explanation of the different colors used in traditional Amish quilts varying by the sect of Amish due to the colors of clothing women were permitted to wear was interesting. If you've got Netflix and use it so much that it feels like the movies are free, and you don't mind wading through some tragically bad footage, you might see a few quilts that spark your interest enough to pause and sketch. Otherwise, there are a lot better quilt films out there.

Click here to return to This is My Heart home page

1 comment:

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

you stated that so well - I completely agree. terrible terrible DVD. such bad bad quality and completely pointless. there was about five minutes at the museum that was interesting, otherwise, bleck.