Laurel Izard

Guns and Girls, hand-embroidered, painted and quilted vintage baby quilt

American Childhood

American Childhood is the term I use for this series of quilts which start with Mid Century baby blankets and quilts collected on the internet or in antique stores. I’m looking at several things with these pieces and one is the huge contrast between the cute and sweet images we surround infants with and the violent toys and images older children grow up with. Many of the images depicted in vintage baby quilts show an idealized picture of childhood that was completely unattainable for many. Some quilts show boys and girls performing perfectly in the gender roles our culture expects of them. Others show a cute and fuzzy world of baby animals that can insulate us from the from the harsher realities of the wild.

The message in my quilts depends on contrast, such as the play between cute little teddy bears with a real bear, Holly Hobby and handguns, or teddy bears and toy tanks. I feel that this contrast allows us to see the dangers and contradictions in modern life in new ways. I leave these questions for the viewer to decide. How have icons and images we surround children with helped to define who we are? What do these images tell us about how to move through adulthood? How do we decipher the difference between the idealized world of childhood and what really exists out there? I do not have answers but am inviting viewers to take a fresh look at the imagery we grew up with and what part it plays in our adult identity.