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Monday, August 29, 2011

Television Review by Keith Waits: KET's The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc.'s "Why Quilts Matter" begins September 5 at 7:00 p.m.


The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc. presents
Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics
Executive Producer and Host Shelly Zegart
Produced and Edited by Doug Jefferson
Shelly Zagat hosts "Why Quilts Matter" on KET
beginning Monday, September 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Written by Ann E. Berman



It seems hard to believe, but once upon a time Shelly Zagat knew next to nothing about quits.  After nearly a lifetime of collecting and studying them, the Louisville resident is now one of the foremost authorities on American quilts, and has sought to communicate her passion and respect for them in a fascinating nine-part series that will begin airing on KET on Monday, September 5 at 7:00pm

The first episode, “Quilts 101”, provides a brisk introduction to both the basics of quilting, from the traditional definition of a quilt as a 3-layer, functional, hand-made textile piece, to the broader, envelope-pushing contemporary identity of art, or “studio” quilts. The other episodes explore various themes and sub-texts related to the world of quilts, but the question of this artistic identity seems a crucial question for so many mediums in the contemporary art world, but perhaps none more than quilters such as Tom Pfannerstill, Valerie White and C.J. Pressma, all Louisville artists. By the fourth episode, “What is Art”, the archetypal debate is given full measure in one of the high points in the series. 

The series does a good job of balancing a wider overall perspective on the subject with specific and vivid details when the story merits. The wide array of experts called upon to contribute, including William R. Ferris, Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Niloo Paydar, Textile Curator, Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN, deliver broader based observations about trends and provide proper historical context concerning the changing role of the quilt in the developing American cultural landscape, while collectors contribute colorful anecdotes about the perils of not taking a closer look at the bargain bin offerings that turn out later to be rare, highly-appraised treasures.

There is also good use made of commentary from various Louisville-based experts, (Jim Grubola and John Begley from the University of Louisville) and artists (Kathleen Loomis, Valerie White and Kay Grubola), that reinforce the local nature of the production. The very nature of the subject provides rich and varied visual material, so it is a little disappointing that the musical score is left to a generic synthesizer offering that more often than not fails to rise above a monotonous muzak-like background; undercutting the well-paced juxtaposition of panoramically photographed quits and authoritative talking head interviews. 

Ms. Zegart’s narration is well-constructed, from a script written by Ann E. Berman, and her delivery is solid, so if the choice to consistently cut to her as an on-camera presence seems an over-used device when there is such a rich treasury of quilt images to explore, it does serve to underscore the highly personal nature of this project for Ms. Zegart.

Ultimately, it is that near-obsessive passion and enthusiasm for her subject that links the various and sometimes unexpected themes and sub-headings that are explored in considerable depth throughout the series. When Ms. Zegart exclaims in unabashed tones, “It’s been a blast!” it is a heartfelt invitation to the viewer to join her in her quest. Whyquitlsmatter.org
Fault Lines 3 by Kathleen Loomis

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Keith Waits. All rights reserved



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