New meets old at ‘Text Messages’ exhibit at Morris Museum


“TMI too much information,” by Lois Sprague, is currently being displayed at the Morris Museum in Morris Township.

One of humanity’s newest forms of personal expression — the text message — is combined with a much older one, quilting, in a new exhibit at the Morris Museum titled “Text Messages.” That’s right, texting and textiles, together for the first time.

It’s aweird juxtaposition for many reasons —mainly, perhaps, because it’s so quick and easy to send a text message, and such a complex, time-consuming process, in comparison, to make a quilt. But there is a long history of using quilts to convey written messages, so it’s really not that much of a stretch. And if it gets some cellphone-focused teens curious about art … that’s obviously a good thing, too.

For this juried exhibit, 112 entries were whittled down to 34, which will be on display at the Morris Township museum through March 20.The theme that unites all of the quilts is the use of some form of writing (each entry had to include at least one letter).

Some of the pieces look to the distant past, such asShannon Conley’s “in nomine Patris,” inspired bymedieval illuminated prayer books, andPhyllis Cullen’s “Early tablet,” picturing Moses and the 10 Commandments. Others are strikingly evocative of our times, such asLois Sprague’s “TMI too much information,” showing a teen, intently focused on her cellphone, with fragments of text-speak dancing around her head; andMonique Gilbert’s “Post-it,” a collage of little square bits of information.

Helen Beaven “Caveman Txts” whimsically contrasts cave drawings with rudimentary text exchanges such as “How ru?” “Ok. Meet @ park?”

Susan Lenz's "Texting From the Grave."

Susan Lenz’s “Texting From the Grave.”

One of the most inventive — and haunting — pieces isSusan Lenz’s “Texting From the Grave,” which pictures an open envelope with the message “We Shall Meet Again,” looking as if it were written on a tombstone, visible inside.

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In conjunction with this exhibit, on Dec. 30 from 1 to 4 p.m., the museum will present a free event titled “Tandem Poetry Writing,” at which poets Amy Tingle and Maya Stein will write poems, on vintage typewriters, for visitors, starting with a word or a short phrase provided by the visitor.

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