BY MIKE PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Some of them tell the stories all by themselves.
"Three Women," a quilt by Julianne McAdoo.
But in her book, Spirits of the Cloth -- Contemporary African American Quilts (Clarkson Potter; $40), Carolyn Mazloomi nudges creators of 150 of her favorite quilts "to expand on the stories that stand behind each piece."
And they do.
In "The Color of Christmas," Julia A. Payne of Denver positions Santa in the quilt's center, surrounded by a rocking horse, toy soldier and wrapped packages. But there's a handgun in one corner and paper money scattered throughout the design, even spilling off the irregular border.
"There is too much greed, ungratefulness, loneliness, debt and so on associated with a holiday supposedly celebrating the simple and pure joys of giving and receiving," Ms. Payne says. " 'The Color of Christmas' is my protest against this."
The book celebrates the artistic tradition of African-American quilts, says Ms. Mazloomi, a noted quilter from Forest Park. Sixty three artists -- men and women -- are featured.
One quilt, "Kwanzaa Quilt," by Roland L. Freeman of Washington, was made in honor of the African-American holiday starting today. On it, a collection of small symbols, including a kinara (candle holder) are clustered in the center. Patterned borders are done in oranges, greens and black.
Ms. Mazloomi's book is organized by the messages behind some of the quilts. Chapters include: Visions of Africa, Memories of Home, Healing: A Balm in Gilead, Sacred Space, Social and Political Protest, Praise Songs.
In her "Requiem" quilt, Carolyn W. Cameron of Kansas City, Kan., presents vertical flowing strips in predominantly reds, oranges and yellows, made from her father's ties.
It "honors the many ways my father was important to me and to the many lives he touched as an early proponent of equality and civil rights," she says.
"Three Women" by Julianne McAdoo of Pittsburgh is "dedicated to African-American women whose voices are strong yet vulnerable; proud yet humble; speaking yet listening." In creating it, many fabrics were cut apart, then sewn back together for added dimension. Patricia Johnson, of Hampton, Va., who designed "Fish Fantasy," says, "Some people confine spirituality to a book or church and fail to recognize the ever-present spirituality of their natural surroundings . . . When we open ourselves to nature's beauty, power and intricacy, then spiritual lessons will come to us with little effort."
Frances Hare of Rochester, N.Y. created a whimsical piece in "Come Into My Garden."
"I've often dreamed of having a garden or space where I could go and find peace and feel bliss," she says. "There would be birds carrying fanciful things, and the plants would have leaves that billow against soft winds.
"I would contemplate there. I would read there. I would heal there."