Popular folklorist to share commentary
March 17, 2010
Harrisburg, PA – Noted author and folklorist Patricia Turner, Ph.D., will discuss African American quilting traditions and the people behind them as part of the Honors Lecture Series presented by HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
Turner will present “African American Quilting Traditions” at noon Wednesday, March 24, at the Harrisburg Campus, One HACC Drive, in Cooper Student Center, room 204. The lecture is free and open to the public. Turner’s visit is supported by a grant from the James Hunter Herr Endowment of The HACC Foundation.
In addition to reviewing the history of African American quilts, Turner will compare early trends in quilt making with current trends in making and exhibiting quilts. One of the most common types of quilts made today is a portrait quilt.
“The most common portrait quilt for the past 18 months or so is Barack Obama,” said Turner. “Many African American dedicated quilters—those who are always working on quilts—already have made or intend to make one Barack Obama quilt.”
In her fourth and most recent book, “Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African-American Quilters” (University of Mississippi Press, 2009), Turner profiles nine quilters. It was while interviewing the quilters about their craft that she was able to learn about their everyday lives and how they were brought up.
“When I tried to capture that information from my own parents and relatives, they were reluctant to talk about those things,” said Turner, who is African American. “With quilts, once you start talking about it, you can start to ease into other information about social and cultural mores.”
Turner’s book also discusses how each quilters approach to making a quilt reflects his or her approach to life.
“A quilt is not an easy thing to do, even with technology. It requires a set of skills and the ability to bring a project through to completion,” said Turner, adding that quilters also apply these skills to their lives. “They’re resourceful. They get things done. They’re accomplished. That, to me, is one of the more interesting connections between completing a simple task and connecting it to something in their life overall.”
Turner, who is vice provost of undergraduate studies for the University of California-Davis, is frequently sought out for her commentary on issues related to folklore and popular culture. She has served as a consulting scholar on several award-winning documentary film projects. Most recently, Turner was interviewed for a film on quilt artist Riché Richardson, entitled “Portrait of the Artist: Riché Richardson.” She also serves on the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges’ Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence and on the executive board of the American Folklore Society.
Turner’s earlier books include “Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in American” (University of California Press, 2009), “Ceramic Uncles and Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture” (originally published by Anchor Books 1994, reissued by University of Virginia Press, 2002), and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (University of California Press, 1993).
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