Nineteenth-century American coverlets are both an embodiment and expression of our national identity. In red, white, and blue, these textiles visualized the young nation through emblems of state and the Stars and Stripes of independence. Looking closely, this American imagery was crafted by interweaving cotton—grown by slaves and spun in Northeastern mills—with local wools steeped in the indigo, madder, cochineal and brazilwood of colonial globalism. The material content of these textiles speaks much more directly to our nation’s history than any visual stories they tell.
And yet we continue to believe in image over substance.
Unbound is a series of experimental works created by weaving historical American coverlet patterns into a ground cloth based on the cotton plaids and checks that were integral to the triangle trade. Exposed for fading and selectively unwoven, these textiles are a meditation on the process of historicization, the formation of American identity, and the prevailing culture of the image.
This work was supported by Indiana University’s
New Frontiers in the Arts & Humanities Program and
Institute for Advanced Studies.