Chinese Souls

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Chinese Souls #2
Chinese Souls No. 2 (Nancy Crow).jpg
Artist Nancy Crow
Year 1992 (1992)
Type Quilt
Dimensions 210 cm × 230 cm (81 in × 89 in)
Location Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis
Owner Indianapolis Museum of Art

Chinese Souls #2 is a quilt by American artist Nancy Crow, located at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. It was created in 1992 as part of a series of memorial quilts she began in response to an atrocity she witnessed in China in 1990.[1]


Chinese Souls #2 is made of resist-dyed fabric which has been embroidered, machine-pieced, and quilted. The dying process created the circular patterns and rich array of hues. The spiraling embroidery adds energy to the composition. This combination of vivid colors, striking patterns, and social commentary is typical of Crow's work.[1]

Crow performed the initial dying of the fabric, which was then resist-dyed by Lunn Fabrics. Crow cut and pieced the quilt alone in her studio, still hearing the cries of the condemned. She stopped frequently to weep. She then embroidered the quilt with the help of Marla Hattabaugh, Suzanne Keller, and Maria Magisano. Hattabaugh performed the hand-quilting according to the pattern created by Crow.[2]

Background information[edit]

According to the artist, "Chinese Souls quilts are my memorial to more than 60 teenage boys who were bound and loaded on two trucks to be driven to their execution for petty crimes. I witnessed this horrible incident when I was an exchange artist in China in September 1990. The boys were all wrapped with heavy ropes. In these quilts, the circles represent their souls and the bull’s-eye embroidery and the hand-quilting represents the ropes tied around their souls. The colors of the circles represent the individuals. I have always felt there is an eerie energy that radiates out from the surface of each of these quilts".[3]

So intense was Crow's visceral reaction to the executions that she felt compelled to begin embroidering a grid of circles on the resist-dyed fabric she had with her, an intersection between the cross-hairs of a gun and the circles painted on the wall so the boys' parents would know where they had died. When she returned to the United States, she quickly produced a series of ten quilts based on the same theme, of which she considers Chinese Souls #2 to be the finest.[4]


The artwork was sold by Nancy Crow to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1996, where it has the accession number 1996.249.[3]


Nancy Crow is a renowned practitioner of quilt art. Born in 1943 in Loudonville, Ohio, she earned her MFA in ceramics and weaving from Ohio State University in 1969.[5] She began creating art quilts in 1976 and co-founded Quilt National in 1979, establishing herself as one of the most influential players in the world of quilt art.[6] In 1990, the year of the incident that sparked this quilt's creation, she began to focus on creating quilts in an emotional, fluid manner, rather than the more traditional, template-driven style. Wielding her cutting tool freehand like a paintbrush allowed her spontaneity and complete emotional engagement with the quilt.[7] For her artistic mastery and work teaching the next generation of quilters she has been lauded with honors such as a one-woman exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in 1995, induction into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 1997, and the inclusion of her works "Double Wedding Ring" and "March Study" in the anthology The 20th Century’s 100 Best American Quilts.[8]


  1. ^ a b Lee, Ellen Wardwell; Robinson, Anne (2005). Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art. ISBN 0936260777.
  2. ^ Crow, Nancy (2006). Nancy Crow. Elmhurst, Illinois: Breckling Press. p. 302. ISBN 1933308036.
  3. ^ a b "Chinese Souls #2". Indianapolis Museum of Art. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  4. ^ Robertson, Jean (2002). "Oral history interview with Nancy Crow, 2002 Dec 18". Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  5. ^ Crow, Nancy. "biography". Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  6. ^ Eccles, Pippa (March 2010). "Nancy Crow: Three Decades of Art Quilting". Quilting Daily. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Nancy Crow". A Century of Quilts: America in Cloth. PBS. October 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Nancy Crow" (PDF). Quilters Hall of Fame. Retrieved 7 September 2012.

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