Quilts as high art © Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
The high-contrast quilts you see here are just a few of the 651 works that were included in a 2011 exhibit of red and white quilts spanning three centuries at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC. Ever since the Whitney Museum of American Art held a quilt-focused art exhibit back in 1971, quilts have often hung in galleries and museums as artworks rather than folk crafts. For centuries, though, quilts had a much more utilitarian use—warmth. (Of course, their decorative designs added to the pleasure they gave.) Quilting has a long tradition in the United States, going back to colonial times. Quilts were created not only for bedding but also to commemorate special occasions, like a wedding or a new baby. Quilting bees brought out the whole community—including many men—to share the work.