Greta Mikkelsen: Tobacco Silks Reimagined
May 2, 2019 - August 11, 2019
Greta Mikkelsen: Tobacco Silks Reimagined debuts Mikkelsen’s stunning contemporary quilts inspired by antique tobacco silks. Tobacco silks were found in cigarette packages at the turn of the twentieth-century as a marketing strategy initially intended to increase competition among brands and ultimately to entice women to smoke. Women clientele were encouraged to collect the precious silk inserts with images of glamorous women, decorative objects, birds, and flowers, among others, and incorporate them into sewing projects.
Mikkelsen became fascinated by tobacco silks when she saw them fashioned into a lustrous vintage pillow top. Captivated by the dichotomy between the preciousness of the silk inserts and the insidiousness of the marketing and manufacturing of the tobacco products they represented, she began integrating the silks into handcrafted quilts that preserve the medium’s delicacy and timeworn qualities while reimagining their context.
The exhibition features twenty-three quilts by Mikkelsen on view for the first time. Each quilt presents a collection of a given motif: ceramic art, types of seashells, and actresses, to name a few, are grouped together in Mikkelsen’s sensitive designs. Enhancing the physical qualities of the silks, Mikkelsen hand-pieces each quilt with silk taffeta and dupioni, vintage silk sari and kimono fabrics, hand-dyed silk ribbon, beads, and satin embroidery floss. Every quilt presents an opportunity for Mikkelsen to experiment with material, color, pattern, and execution. Taken together, the quilts speak to the allure of stylish collectibles and the exploitation of desire from a bygone era.
This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board.