"Workt by Hand": Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts showcases approximately thirty-five American and European quilt masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts collection. The exhibition examines the impact of feminist scholarship on the ways historical quilts have been and are currently viewed, contextualized, and interpreted. Spanning two centuries of quilt making, the exhibition features superlative examples of the most iconic quilt designs and techniques, including the "Barn Raising" or "Log Cabin" style, the "Garden Basket" style, "Double Wedding Band" designs, the "Rose of Sharon" pattern, and the Amish "Sunshine and Shadow" style, as well as a variety of album quilts.
The exhibition considers how issues common to the craft and handmade nature of quilting practices, such as anonymity, authorship, and collectivity, have affected the interpretation and reception of quilts. It also examines the historical designation of quilts as crafts rather than art objects and the shift in the late twentieth century, under the influence of modernism, toward a formalist appreciation of quilts as works of abstract art. This shift, and its implications for the way quilts have been seen and understood, will be explored by the quilts being presented both vertically—as they are now frequently shown in museums and galleries—and horizontally, as though on the beds for which they were originally designed.