A section of “PROPULSION – The Other Boosters Behind the Moon Landing” quilt by Linda Cooper, as now on display in the “Fly Me to the Moon” exhibit at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky
Credit: National Quilt Museum
An art exhibit now open at the National Quilt Museum features a soft-ware approach to the hardware that took the first astronauts to the moon.
“Fly Me to the Moon,” now on display at the Paducah, Kentucky museum, features fabric quilts that celebrate humanity’s fascination with Earth’s natural satellite and honor the Apollo missions that lifted astronauts to the moon nearly 50 years ago.
“Take a trip to the moon and beyond without the time and rigors of space training,” said Susanne Jones, the exhibit’s curator, in a statement released by the National Quilt Museum. “Take a walk down memory lane or learn the story of the missions for the first time.” [NASA’s 17 Apollo Moon Missions in Pictures]
The exhibition, which opened on June 15 and runs through Sept. 4, includes quilts that depict scenes directly from space history and others that use the medium to comment on the Apollo era.
For example, “Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong’s First Step on the Moon” created by Deb Berkebile was “inspired by all the classic, iconic photos” that were taken during the first moon landing in July 1969. Similarly, Margaret Williams’ “Ed White” captures the Gemini 4 astronaut performing the first U.S. spacewalk in June 1965.
Alternatively, “The Apollo Wives” by artist Bonnie Askowitz portrays the astronauts’ spouses “as see through, almost invisible” while standing before the launch of the massive Saturn V rocket.
“The name of each wife is quilted invisibly into the background,” Askowitz revealed in the description of her work. “Like quilting, which holds the entire piece together, so did the wives hold families together while their husbands rocketed to fame.”
The 44 quilts in the exhibit were selected from a collection of 179 fabric works that were sewn as part of the “Fly Me to the Moon” art challenge organized by Jones. The pieces, which come from eight countries, were made by renowned fiber artists and relative newcomers to the quilting craft.
“I wanted high quality work with great visual impact. It’s hard to predict which ones will wow the viewers. They are all fabulous,” said Jones.
Other quilts on display pay tribute to specific astronauts, examine the moon from a scientific viewpoint or refer to the moon’s role in pop culture, folklore and other art forms, including music.
“High Flying Flag” by Mary Kay Davis, for example, merges the art of the Apollo 11 mission patch with the imagery of the stars and stripes deployed on the moon.
Jones’ own contribution, “Moon Mullins: Living the High Life,” portrays her uncle as converting an Apollo lunar lander into a still and dreaming of the moonshine he will soon enjoy.
The National Quilt Museum is the latest venue to display the “Fly Me to the Moon” quilts, which first debuted at the Houston International Quilt Festival in 2016. Prior to arriving in Kentucky, the quilts were exhibited at art galleries, other festivals and inside Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Future exhibitions include a return to NASA in Texas for the 50th anniversaries of the Apollo 7 and Apollo 8 missions beginning in October and a display at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York scheduled for early next year.
“This exhibit is a rare intersection of history and art,” said Frank Bennett, National Quilt Museum CEO. “Everyone remembers where they were when man walked on the moon. We are getting so many visitors coming to relive that special day. At the same time, we are seeing many people bringing kids so they can teach a younger generation the history.”