Picture This: The Story Quilts of Yvonne Wells

The Paul R. Jones Museum is pleased to present the exhibition Picture This: The Story Quilts of Yvonne Wells from August 2 through September 27, 2024. The exhibition will be held in conjunction with the release of the new book The Story Quilts of Yvonne Wells by the artist and University of Alabama professor of American Studies Stacy Morgan. A reception and book signing with remarks by Wells and Morgan will be held in the Jones Museum during Tuscaloosa’s First Friday Art Walk on Friday, September 6 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., with the author talk beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Yvonne Wells’ relationship to quilting is unusual in the sense that she taught herself to quilt as an adult. She began about 1979 creating her own versions of traditional pieced quilts before evolving to applique designs with pictorial imagery that she used to tell stories by the mid-1980s. The upcoming book stems from a collaborative effort between Wells and Morgan that began in 2017 and involved extensive interviews with the artist herself as well as various collectors, scholars, curators, fellow artists, and family members connected to her prolific career.  The resulting publication from the University of Alabama Press combines over 100 color quilt reproductions accompanied by the artist’s stories with chapters that describe Wells’ artistic process, materials, motives, and subjects, as well as her legacy within the larger art world.  

The exhibition includes works that span from Wells’ early career story quilt masterpieces to recent quilts never before publicly exhibited. The quilts in the show also represent multiple categories from the artist’s wide-ranging creative output, which she terms “Children’s Moment,” “Religious Emphasis,” “Sociopolitical,” and “Potluck or Picture This.” According to Morgan, “‘Picture This’ is both a term Wells uses to label a set of quilts that defy easy categorization and an apt description for what her artwork as a whole accomplishes: bringing an incredibly diverse and imaginative set of stories to life with fabric, thread and a dazzling array of other materials that one would seldom find in traditional quilts. If Mrs. Wells can picture an idea in her mind, she will find a way to make it tangible.” As Wells succinctly describes her own artistic process, “What my head can see and my heart can feel, my hands can create.” 

Paul R. Jones Museum Director Daniel White said, “The Jones Museum is honored to have this exhibition of Yvonne Wells’ work and proud to help celebrate this new publication by bringing her work to the community. While known widely, Mrs. Wells has long been an important part of the cultural fabric of our community and the book and this exhibition are important moments in the museum’s history – as well as our city’s history.” 

Yvonne Thomas Wells is a contemporary artist and lifelong educator from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  She is a recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and has represented Alabama in exhibitions in Vence, France, and Pietrasanta, Italy.  Her art is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the High Museum of Art, the International Quilt Museum, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, among other art institutions. Wells is represented by Fort Gansevoort New York

Image credits: 

Book cover: Yvonne Wells and Stacy Morgan, The Story Quilts of Yvonne Wells, University of Alabama Press, 2024; cover image: Yvonne Wells, Sewing Patriotism, 2001, 90 x 71 inches. Collection of Roxanne Gay and Debbie Millman. Photo by Jerry Siegel. 

Yvonne Wells, Liberty Lives, 2004, 92 x 72 inches. Photo by Beau Gustafson.

Read this press release online.

The Paul R. Jones Museum is an essential part of the education and development of UA students and our community. Admission to the museum is free. The museum is located at 2308 Gary Fitts (Sixth) Street, in downtown Tuscaloosa, one block from the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and First Fridays, 12 noon to 8 p.m. Have questions or need assistance? Call (205) 345-3038 or go to their website

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.

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Art Story Quilt by Yvonne Wells