Sunday, February 1, 2015

Biography of Riché Richardson for the 2015 “Portraits” Art Quilt Exhibition

Exhibition Title: "Portraits II: From Montgomery to Paris"

Location: Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, Alabama

Dates: January 10, 2015 - March 27, 2015

July 7, 2014, Standing at Bus Stop on Seneca St. in Ithaca, New York

December 17, 2010, Home in Montgomery, Alabama for the Holidays

January 14, 2009, Giving Talk at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence, Paris, France

August 15, 2008, Dialoging with 4th and 5th Graders from E.D. Nixon Elementary School in Gallery Room at Rosa Parks Museum during the First "Portraits" Art Quilt Show, Montgomery, Alabama

Curator: Daniel Neil with Georgette Norman

Riché Richardson, who was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, made her first portrait art quilt in 1999 and has been developing this project for the past 15 years. She has been diligent in producing various crafts since her childhood from as early as age nine, when she first began to focus on sewing, crocheting and collecting dolls. She taught herself to knit and also eventually made some soft-sculpture dolls during her teen years. Her beautiful art quilts are often described by people who have seen them on exhibition as quilts unlike any that they have ever seen before, as evidenced in the nearly 60 pieces featured here, which also include some of her earliest work.

The distinct signature style of portrait art quilting that she has developed draws on intricate design techniques and incorporates painting and mixed-media to produce hand-stitched, richly detailed, three-dimensional quilts. Her art quilts often unfold as multi-year projects and in some cases have taken several years to develop. With felt providing their foundational fabric and form, her quilting subjects are drawn and painted in a classic style and designed with features such as synthetic hair, eyelashes, and fingernails. They incorporate an eclectic range of materials, including hats, jewelry, shoes, ribbons, orthodontic braces, buttons, safety pins, boas, fruit, beading, flowers, eye glasses, mirrors, and ties, among other items. Her second solo art quilt exhibition, Portraits II: From Montgomery to Paris: The Appliqué Art Quilts of Riché Deianne Richardson, pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other anniversaries in Civil Rights Movement history this year. It is dedicated to the memories of her grandparents, Joe Richardson and Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson. This exhibition expands the range of special effects that she incorporates in developing her art quilts and takes her architectural quilting style and the notion of the “built quilt” in some new and quite exciting directions. Thematically speaking, Portraits II continues to develop all of the foundational series of her first quilt show, which debuted at Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum in 2oo8, and incorporates several more series. The multiple series in which her portrait art quilts are developed include “Family,” “Political,” “Paris,” “Hollywood,” “Black History,” “The Civil Rights Movement,” “African American Literature,” and “Alabama Women,” and new versions of “Daughters of Africa” and “Delta.” In 2013, Richardson served as the invited speaker at the Rosa Parks Museum’s gala 100th birthday celebration of Rosa Parks and donated her quilt in honor of the heroine to the museum, which features this piece in its permanent collection.

The family quilts recall May Day celebrations in Montgomery, Alabama dating back to the 1960s, as well as Easter parades, school programs, and birthday celebrations. They recreate family debutante portraits from the 1970s to the 2000s. In the process, they capture a side of black life, particularly in the U.S. South, less frequently discussed. As curator Georgette Norman describes “Portraits” in the 2008 catalog for the show at Rosa Parks Museum, it “draws on aspects of Montgomery and Civil Rights history, but focuses on family showing the dignity and beauty that always existed . . . Portraits . . . captures in new form family photos and memories, and also treats political and cultural figures from Martin Luther King to Scarlett O’Hara.“ The new show is grounded by a Montgomery Bus Boycott Series that features quilts honoring Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a tribute to the 60th anniversary year of the historic movement that helps to lead off commemorations in the city of Montgomery in 2015. It features several large installation-style “torso quilts,” including the large triple quilt installation in the debutante series, which is replete with digital media such as light and sound features and also draws on principles of geometry, engineering, and architecture in its development.

The body of quilts from “Portraits” is the subject of the short film by Anne Crémieux and Géraldine Chouard entitled A Portrait of the Artist (2008), which was shot on location in Paris, France, and highlighted an interview with the scholar Patricia A. Turner. Pat Turner also discusses the “Portraits” project in her book Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters (2009). Quilts from “Portraits” are featured in Lauren Cross’s film The Skin Quilt Project (2010). Richardson’s work has been exhibited at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., the Eastville Community Historical Society in Sag Harbor, New York, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, Alabama, the Carol Tatkon Center Art Gallery at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the Mairie du 5e in Paris. In January of 2009 she was invited to Paris as a “Cultural Envoy” by the U.S. Embassy in France for the opening of its national quilt exhibition, “Un Patchwork de Cultures,” under the sponsorship of a grant from the U.S. Department of State in its Speaker Series. On this visit to Paris, she was honored with a talk, reception, exhibition and film screening at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in the city, an event attended by an audience of 150 people.

Riché Richardson has been highly productive as an artist, but she is a scholar who primarily devotes her time to her academic writing and research. She earned her B.A. from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and her Ph.D. from Duke University. She is currently an associate professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University with interests in African American literature, American literature, Southern studies and gender studies. She spent the first 10 years of her academic career teaching at the University of California, Davis (1998-2008). In 2001, she received a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her essays have been published in journals such as American Literature, Mississippi Quarterly, Forum for Modern Language Studies, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, TransAtlantica, the Southern Quarterly, Black Camera, NKA, Phillis, and Technoculture. Her first book, Black Masculinity and the U.S. South: From Uncle Tom to Gangsta (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007), was highlighted by Choice Books among the "Outstanding Academic Titles of 2008," and by Eastern Book Company among the "Outstanding Academic Titles, Humanities, 2008." Her second book examines the U.S. South in relation to black femininity and the national body. Since 2005, she has served as the coeditor of the New Southern Studies book series at the University of Georgia Press, a series that has released 12 books thus far. Most recently, she was invited to join the Delta Research and Educational Foundation’s Sister Scholars Advisory Council. She was initiated in Spelman’s Eta Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1992 and is currently a member of the Montgomery Alumnae Chapter.

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