Tullia's Column

Men who practice Quilting

Italiano (Italian)

He, Joe Cunningham, is one of them. He also wrote a book analyzing the work and interviewing passionate colleagues who, as it is written in the title, practice it before him.

Joe, we met him at Verona Tessile, a festival that will be talked about again and for a long time, and it’s like his paintings, pardon, quilt! Great!

Special guest: his exhibition was set up on the main floor in the Palazzo della Gran Guardia which overlooks the garden surrounding the Arena.

We actually knew him, for a nice and comprehensive interview * by Maria Rosaria Roseo for this magazine and it was interesting to see him generously at work in explaining his techniques and his ideas.

But let’s go step by step. Joe has mastered the historical tradition, even distant in time, of quilting, he studied it with passion and interest for creative freedom, the modernity he had discovered in this work of quilter women through the past. He was a pupil, really good and diligent, alongside teachers, experts, he found his way.

His work elaborates and makes new, provides an image of truly personal quilting. His quilt is pictorial and imaginative, he reminds me a little of Rauschenberg, he knows it too, like other authors of an “abstract” tendency. His faces are ironic and a little inspired by the “comics”, the use of the appliqué, the colored fabrics and that intense and poignant black and white.

on the left: “Some Dumb Old Painting” on the right: “Luke Haynes in His American Context ”                                      


That large room with high ceilings all white was perfect for its large colorated quilts and what to say about the sympathy, all musical: it never leaves the guitar because it is a fine musician. I was not lucky enough to listen to him for a long time and therefore appreciate him in this too, in the right way. In this regard, who knows if he knows the “Ballad for Joe the quilter”**, of distant memory, for that poor Joe, itinerant quilter of the late 1800s in North Cumberland, north of England, made history for his brutal murder, remembered from a ballad and on display in the Bowes Museum of Barnard Castle.

I believe that we will talk for a long time about this long weekend in Verona, so crowded and hospitable and the exhibitions of textile work in infinite forms, in places and palaces of this splendid city, organized so well by the friends of “Ad Maiora”.

*Interview with Joe Cunningham

**“Joe the quilter”

Sleeping Protesters

on the left: “Up the Stream of Good Intentions”     on the right: “Michigan Winter”

“Michigan Winter” detail

“The Creek Dreams it’s a River”

“The Creek Dreams it’s a River” detail


Joe explained to us what the black marks are, in the middle of the quilt: where he lives, during the winter, the asphalt is cracked by the ice. In the spring, road maintenance workers fill these cracks with machinery. Joe has been photographing the drawings for months and has reproduced them with black thread

Joe shows us the back of his “Crazy City Flint”: the quilting, which on the front is not very visible, represents a very dense and complex city landscape

“Crazy City Flint”