Quilts and Health

Quilts and Health

Quilts and Health

Quilts and Health

Synopsis

Name an illness, medical condition, or disease and you will find quiltmaking associated with it. From Alzheimer's to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lou Gehrig's Disease to Crigler-Najjar Syndrome, and for nearly every form of cancer, millions of quilts have been made in support of personal well-being, health education, patient advocacy, memorialization of victims, and fundraising. In Quilts and Health, Marsha MacDowell, Clare Luz, and Beth Donaldson explore the long historical connection between textiles and health and its continued and ever growing importance in contemporary society. This lavishly illustrated book brings together hundreds of health-related quilts--with imagery from abstract patterns to depictions of fibromyalgia to an ovarian cancer diary--and the stories behind the art, as told by makers, recipients, healthcare professionals, and many others. This incredible book speaks to the healing power of quilts and quiltmaking and to the deep connections between art and health.

Excerpt

In August 2009, my sister, Clare Luz, a faculty member in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, was asked by a colleague to organize a public panel on arts and healing in conjunction with ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since Clare had long been interested in the intersection of arts, health, and medicine, she agreed to do a presentation. Knowing that I have conducted extensive research on quilts in my capacity as a curator at the Michigan State University Museum and as an art history professor at msu, she then turned to me to ask if I might be willing to join her as a second speaker. Off the top of my head, I knew I had data on the aids Memorial quilts and a few other health-related quilts, so I tentatively replied, β€œYes, but let me check my files to see if I have enough to produce a full presentation.” That night, as I looked through several physical and digital files I maintain, I was astounded at the breadth and depth of what I had already amassed on the topic and emailed her with a most definite yes. That night, I realized that the topic of quilts and health is an area of quilt studies that has been woefully under-researched.

A few days before our scheduled presentation, Clare and I sat in llow scholar, Betty MacDowell, who was recovering from hip replacement surgery. Partly out of curiosity and partly as a way to pass the time, we asked nearly every medical professional who came into the room to try to give us an example of one disease or illness they thought could not be connected to quilts. All of them indulged us, and some even wrote their suggestions on surgical tape, which I then applied to the back of my computer. Before they made their next round of visits, we did Internet searches. As it turned out, we found quilts for every illness they thought would stump us, and we had fun sharing the stories with one another and with the medical staff as they returned to the room. As a quilt scholar, I was very surprised to see that we were finding not just one quilt made by one individual per illness or disease but often thousands of quilts made by thousands of artists. Even more surprising was that so many large projects were connected to medical institutions, patient advocacy groups, survivors of illness, and medical educators.

By the time we gave our presentation at the ArtPrize event, we knew that we needed to begin in-depth research on quilts and health. We partnered with msu colleagues Heather Howard and Emily Proctor to conduct studies and presentations on Native American health and quilts. We joined the Society for Arts and Health, and with Beth Donaldson we created . . .

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