The Story Quilts of Tina Williams Brewer

Tina Williams Brewer, Rising From the Thicket, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist.

In conjunction with the release of Tina Williams Brewers’ online viewing room, we take a look back at Elena Harvey Collins’ thoughtful essay, Security Blanket: The Story Quilts of Tina Williams Brewer.

Artist, curator, and writer Elena Harvey Collins spent time in Pittsburgh as the second participant of Casey Droege’s The Residence. During her time there, she met with artist Tina Williams Brewer. Collins subsequently wrote a dedicated essay in homage to Williams’ signature quilts.

To read an excerpt of Collins’ essay and to gain further insight into Tina Williams Brewer’s inspirations and artistic practice, please read below.

“Quilts move simply and without fuss. They can be handled casually, with familiarity—slung, rolled, fluffed, shaken out: Brewer does all of these things as we lay her quilts out on the floor of the Pittsburgh Coliseum, the community space she operates with her husband, oral historian John Brewer. She moves from piece to piece, charting a personal journey of discovery and research into the cosmology and culture of the Akan and Dogon cultures of West Africa, among others, and African American history, begun after moving to Pittsburgh from West Virginia in 1971. From the thicket, we move with Brewer up and out through other intimate spaces: the slave ship, the safe house, the dance, to her current focus; the landscape of Pittsburgh. Brewer, who currently resides in Homewood, has lived here for over 35 years, “learning the city,” as she told me…

For me, quilts always relate back to the human body, through their sense of scale and proportion. Even quilts that are only ever intended as art works, like Brewer’s, retain a relationship to collective use-memory, remaining bedspread- or baby blanket-sized. This potential to cover and enfold the body is powerful protection, summoning the feeling of childhood and the desire to hide: In an enclosed space the self-forming form can do the work of becoming itself. In this way, Brewer’s work is like speculation. Reconstituted Black cultural forms, icons, and material culture, refracted and fragmented through the prism of Diaspora, move steadily, insistently, towards the future.”

Click the link below to read Elena Harvey Collins’ essay in full.

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