Cult Objects

The 1973 New York Times review of the first gallery show exclusively comprising Amish quilts quoted gallery owner George Schoellkopf as poetically remarking: “They all look like they were made by the light of the moon.” In the 1970s, Amish quilts achieved cult-like status, as artists, art enthusiasts, and critics made connections between abstract paintings and Amish quilts, while also admiring the “spiritual and other-worldly” nature of the Amish themselves. As the Times critic observed, noting the visual connections between Amish quilts and modern art, “the roots of hard edge and op art may well be found in these naive studies.”1 Philadelphia antiques dealer Amy Finkel recalled that upon seeing Amish quilts, “everyone, whether they came in to see me [at my shop] or saw an exhibit … would think they’d discovered it: ‘Oh my god, look at these! They look just like modern art!’” Interior design publications began featuring Amish quilts in modern settings, a role these quilts could distinctly play as they functioned simultaneously as great works of modern design and as reminders of rural authenticity. With quilt exhibits touring the country in the early 1970s and the excitement about the upcoming American Bicentennial growing, interest in Amish quilts was just one part of the Quilt Revival that emerged in the 1970s. 

1. Rita Reif, “Amish Quilts Abound; Vibrant Color and Wit Mark Patchworks,” New York Times, July 14, 1973.

Oral History Excerpts

Excerpt from interview with Amy Finkel, conducted by Janneken Smucker, May 15, 2008.

Excerpt from interview with Patricia Herr, conducted by Janneken Smucker, October 23, 2007.