The International Honor Quilt was displayed alongside The Dinner Party on its international tour, beginning in Houston, TX in 1980 and continuing until its display in Australia in 1988. Individual pieces were contributed to the project throughout its tour, adding more at each stop on the tour. Because of this method, many of the contributions to the project are corollary to the location of the exhibition venues. Consequently, the IHQ was never exhibited independently or completely until now.
The IHQ travelled with TDP on its tour in the 1980s in the following venues:
After the conclusion of The Dinner Party tour, the IHQ was housed by Through the Flower, the non-profit organization founded by Judy Chicago to support feminist art activities. Recognizing the significance of the IHQ as individual commemorative pieces, curators periodically borrowed selections of the panels to include in exhibition projects.
The IHQ showcases 542 individual panels that are representative of the larger conversation on handicraft and fiber techniques that initiated the issues on the hierarchies of contemporary art and what is considered art. Feminist art movements were fundamental in dismantling traditional categories of art making, particularly those that devalue women’s work.
It showcases a variety of techniques and materials typical of craft and handiwork, and contributes to the significance of Craft as an established genre of contemporary art.
These connotations of women working together using traditional craft techniques were a critical element in the art of Judy Chicago and other feminist artists as they sought to reclaim and elevate the traditionally devalued female skills of needlework and other domestic crafts.
The content of the individual panels address numerous feminist issues, or honored important individual feminists and organization, including significant women’s organizations.
Feminist art history is the movement of art that addressed women and women’s issues. As Feminism gained in popularity through the 1960s, its ideology had a large impact on the arts. Issues of womanhood and women’s history were explored through the arts with one of the landmark works being Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party and in accordance the IHQ. While some people focus on craft and resuscitating women’s history, others embodies a feminine aesthetic and focused on breaking down boundaries that blocked access of women and women’s art into traditional art venues, such as museums, galleries, and publications.
A Quilting Bee is a traditional social quilt making gathering where a group of women congregate to collaboratively work on a quilt. The process is characteristic of late 19th and early 20th century work-sharing social occasions that primarily focused on utility and social positioning of women’s work. It emphasized ability in craft as an essential part of femininity, with a focus on utility over aesthetic value.
The initial invitation to contribute to this project requested individuals to make a quilt following specifications established by Judy Chicago: Each quilt was instructed to be a 24” equilateral triangle that listed the name of the honoree as well as their respective city, state and country. These initial specifications served more as a general format than a requirement. While many of the contributions are indeed traditional quilts, the collection is not entirely comprised of quilted fabric objects but rather use the term “quilt” as a loose reference of a flat fabric piece. As a whole collection, especially when installed together on the wall, the project can be considered a quilt, with the individual objects serving as “pieces,” much like pieces of fabric are put together to form a quilt. In this sense, the IHQ as a whole operates under the metaphor of a quilt, both in form and in function.
The IHQ as a whole operates under the metaphor of a quilt, both in form and in function. Not all of the individual contributions are quilts in the traditional definition, and therefore are referred to as panels, pieces, or sections of the whole IHQ.
Through the initial borrowed format of a “quilting bee,” the IHQ represents a quilt tradition of collaborative, community-driven creative craftwork. Additionally, the subjects, makers, and facilitators of this project were derived from resources tied to the quilt and craft cultures, like women’s quilting guilds.
There is a long standing tradition of women’s handiwork that the IHQ largely addresses through the individual panels, both in content and in physical format. The IHQ presents a range of skill-level, from highly professional embroiderers to novice art makers. The project is a comprehensive sampling of handiwork from international contributors.
The IHQ is housed in the Hite Institute of Art and Design at the University of Louisville, in Louisville, Kentucky. The IHQ has been photographed, catalogued, and then published as a digital collection under the University of Louisville Library Digital Collections. This digital collection can be accessed freely by the public by visiting the website.
Each individual panel has been photographed; both front and back images are available through the digital collection. All additionally supporting materials, such as information sent in by the original makers in the form of letters, newspaper clippings, etc., are available to view at the Hite Institute of Art and Design by appointment.
Keywords are a primary search tool for viewers of the Digital Collection. They are often descriptive or vernacular words used as colloquial language. If you would like to suggest an additional term to be used as a searchable keyword, please contact us via email at: email@example.com.
Although the International Honor Quilt was the original name for the project, at various times this project has also been referred to as the International Quilting Bee. The individual panels have been catalogued using the initials “IQB” and a corresponding accession number.
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