At the American Folk Art Museum, they are having a year of the quilt. I have already seen the first phases of their exhibitions, which have been wonderful, and last weekend I was thrilled to go and see a five day long showcase of a phenomenal collection of red and white quilts in the Park Avenue Armoury, which is destination enough itself. Entitled ‘Infinite Variety’, it shows the remarkable array of patterns and effects available when using just two colours to create works of art.
On walking into the colossal old drill hall of the armoury, I was greeted by beautiful, intricate, amazing quilts that hung from the ceiling and were strung across walls, all of them remarkable and none of them alike, making a magnificent effect and producing a feast for the eyes. Stars, geometric shapes, religious texts, figurative images, plants and flowers, even aeroplanes; each quilt was worthy of much attention and study, and I only wish I had have had time to stop and appreciate them all as they deserved.
Being in this space and seeing how two simple colours (red and white as a combination became popular in the 19th century because of the colour fast-ness of turkey red dye compared to other colours, not for patriotic reasons as commonly believed) can produce so much variety made me meditate on how often, keeping things simple produces the best results. If I were a quilt, I certainly wouldn’t be a beautiful patchwork of simple red-and-white checkerboard. I’d be a jumble of all different fabrics, vying for attention, clashing and competing and confusing the eye. I am impatient, highly strung, too ambitious with my time; I try and fit too much in, exhaust myself, burn my candle at both ends. As Andrew Marvell would say, I am ever aware of time’s winged chariot drawing near, ever conscious that my time in New York will come to an end, and ever afraid that I will leave this city without having fully appreciated and explored everything that was laid at my feet.
But thinking on those quilts, and walking through the budding daffodils in Central Park a couple of days ago, I came to the realisation that the reason the quilts exhibition in the Armoury had been so arresting was because of its use of two simple colours in so many various ways. Keeping things simple created a beauty that would have been diluted if more elements had been added. As I stopped in the park to gaze at the daffodils and watch people run around the reservoir, I realised that what I will take away from this year in New York is not how much I have done and seen, but how much this experience of leaving home and forging a new life in a new city has changed me. It’s been seven months now, and like the flowers in the park, I am beginning to truly blossom. I’m not the girl I was a few months ago. My horizons have been expanded, my dreams and ambitions have sky rocketed, and my courage and confidence have developed to the point where I am doing things I never believed I would or could do just a few months ago. Yes, I have been to lots of museums and seen lots of architecture and learned a lot about New York history, but ultimately, the most valuable things I have learned have been about myself.
So, like the quilts in the armoury, from now on, I’m going to allow myself to keep things simple, to take a step back, to smell the coffee rather than greedily gulp it down before it’s snatched away from me. If I don’t get to do and see everything, no matter. New York isn’t going anywhere.