The Pub with No Beer

SPOILER ALERT -This post is about quilts, not about beer. If you want sunshine and unicorns, stop reading now. If you wish to read on you might want to listen to Slim Dusty sing his famous Pub with no Beer song.

Our visit to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles at 520 South First St, San Jose was badly timed. Two out of three exhibitions on the day we visited were wedding themed.

mike_mcnamara_3The only quilts being exhibited were by Mike McNamara and were described as being inspired by the traditional double wedding ring design. When I say inspired, I guess they mean loosely inspired. It was hard to spot the double wedding rings at all as Mr McNamara’s quilts were hung in a corridor, making it difficult to get enough distance to view their designs clearly. It was only after I reviewed my photos (taken with permission) that the double rings became evident. Each quilt was accompanied by pictures of the mostly same-sex couples that the quilts were made for.

While I support marriage equality, when it came to the artistry of these particular quilts I wonder whether support for same-sex marriage didn’t influence the curatorial decision-making. These quilts did not inspire me, though they did confirm that for me, wonky edges are not an acceptable design choice. And while I’m being controversial, when the vast majority of quilts are made by women, it rather ticks me off to see a male quilter’s work being the only quilts on display at a quilt museum.

wedding_gown_2

The technology in fashion exhibit did not hold our attention and the wedding dresses on display were historically interesting and were, I’m sure, carefully chosen from the History San Jose collection. The most interesting was a dress that was so tiny that the bride either had a developmental issue or, more likely, was well under what we would call marriageable age today. The age of the bride was not given, unfortunately.

My personal favourite was a checked gown, worn by Ann Elizabeth Smith at her marriage to Robert Francis Peckham in 1849, a time when a woman’s best dress had to serve on her wedding day and well beyond. There was no focus on weaving though there was a contemporary (1985) woven Moroccan wedding belt on display.

moroccan_wedding_belt

Moroccan Wedding Belt – Detail

As for the outfits worn by two men on their recent wedding day, while I celebrate their love, I just can’t get excited about (almost) matching contemporary grey suits.

This was a disappointing visit, mostly because of the small number of quilts on display. As my beloved put it, “Oh well, we’ve given them $16, maybe they can go out and get themselves some quilts.”

However from their web site I see that the permanent collection of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles contains over 1000 textiles and includes historic quilts, contemporary art quilts and textile-based art forms, as well as garments and textiles from world cultures.

But the quilt collection is not open to the public, so you could call the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles the pub with no beer.

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