Sara Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin

Photo: Christopher Smith

“Art is the thread of the world’s civilization, from textile to architecture it is the inner-stitching of community and cultural narratives. It strengthens our reserve, it allows us to realize the abilities and attributes from centuries old wellsprings, which explores humanity through the crux of collective testimonies and documentations, creating a legacy for the entire world to engage in as we view and learn the complexities of our actual humanbeingness.”

Sara Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin weaves the past and the present experience of African American peoples into her exquisite textile works. Her skillful fiber designs and striking use of color show her mastery coming from a family of seamstresses and her source inspiration from African textile patterns. Quilting is an act both of labor and leisure, and the quilts themselves— often made from discarded, recycled scraps of fabric—are transformed into something utilitarian and beautiful. An important art form in its own right, quilting also provides a historical and cultural record. As the artist explains and connects to her faith, “Through all our tragedies and hardships as a people, we have experienced the ugliness of life only to rise up and celebrate our gifts and talents through God’s unwavering grace.”

In Thompson-Ruffin’s Ecclesiastes the Book of Knowledge, the quilt as record and spiritual document is explicit. The quilt of gold, red, and black fabrics features an African fancy print from Ghana. A grid of windmill-shaped patterns signifies the passage of time and learning. The hanging quilt is exhibited with an open, tattered Bible in the forefront, connecting the story of the quilt with the biblical text. King Solomon’s Robe is a dynamic, ornate quilt the artist designed to adorn a church altar. The gold, black, orange, green, and ivory quilt features a basket weave pattern and includes African wax and fancy prints and Kente cloth. In the Bible, King Solomon was known for his great wisdom and wealth, and this quilt represents the spiritual wisdom and wealth received from the church altar. Thompson-Ruffin seamlessly weaves together her cultural heritage, religious faith, and artful craft into her venerable quilt works.

– Vicki Phung Smith

Selected Works
 
King Solomon's Robe, 2010
Hand-cut and pieced African wax and fancy print, cotton kente cloth, utilizing the universal image of the windmill of time and learning, cut cotton print trim. Machine stitched and quilted
 
Ecclesiastes the Book of Knowledge, 2013
Hand-pieced African fancy print from Ghana, utilizing the universal image of the windmill of time and learning, cut cotton print trim, Machine stitched and quilted
Editorial
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Exhibitions & Programs