Louisville’s Fiber Legend: The Life and Work of Alma Lesch

In honor of Women’s History Month, “Louisville’s Fiber Legend: The Life and Work of Alma Lesch,” is on display at the University of Louisville’s Bridwell Art Library. The exhibit consists of artifacts from the Alma Lesch manuscript collection. The papers in this collection include correspondence with galleries, museums and schools concerning exhibitions and workshops; articles in newspapers and magazines about Alma Lesch; exhibition catalogs which include Lesch’s work; supporting materials for workshops Lesch conducted; publications and newsletters from Shakertown; articles, newspaper clippings and ephemera on various art-related topics; lists of students and other documents from her tenure at UofL.

Alma Wallace Lesch (1917-1999) lived her whole life in Kentucky, and although her career as a working artist started in her 40s, she attained a width and breadth of textile arts that few can attain.

Earning a B.S./Education from Murray State (1941), and a Masters of Education from the University of Louisville (1962), Alma had her first career as a 3rd grade teacher, then taught at Louisville School of Art (1961-1978) and became an Adjunct Faculty at University of Louisville (1975-1982); while at UofL she founded the Textiles Program. She also taught at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Arrowmont School of Crafts. By 1974, she was named a Master Craftsman by the American Crafts Council, was awarded The Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts in 1987.

Although Alma didn’t start her professional artistic career until the 1960s, her first quilt was started at age 5 and completed at age 12, while learning embroidery and sewing from her mother and grandmother.

Most noted for her innovative fabric portraits made by sewing vintage clothing while adding embellishments that helped describe the person, Alma also worked with quilts, embroidered art, macramé, jewelry made from beads or buttons, collaged textile sculptures, woodcuts, basketry, and glass mosaics.

Alma is also a leading authority on natural dyes, writing several books.

Her works are found in several museums including the Speed Art Museum, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, the American Crafts Museum of New York, the Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, and the Flint (Mich.) Institute of Art, as well as the Bridwell Art Library/UofL.

The Louisville Courtier Journal called her the “Undisputed Grande Dame of KY textiles and a pioneer in the National Crafts Movement.” A historical marker is found in her honor in Shepherdsville, KY.

All-Libraries MLK Exhibit Leads Visitors Through Civil Rights Timeline

To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, all University of Louisville’s libraries will participate in an exhibit of posters and materials celebrating Dr. King’s life, “A Walk Through the Civil Rights Movement with the University Libraries.”

MLK 2020

The exhibit highlights pivotal events in the civil rights movement in the United States, beginning with the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954, and ending with Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. Visitors can follow the panels’ timeline starting in Kornhauser Library, then moving to Music, Law, Archives and Special Collections, Ekstrom, and ending at the Art Library.

The featured panels commemorating the civil rights movement once hung in Ekstrom Library for a decade. Each library will display some of the panels and supplement the exhibit with their own materials.

An accompanying MLK digital timeline and Library Guide (LibGuide) will reference all materials displayed in the exhibit, showcasing the numerous civil rights-related works within each library’s collection. It will be linked to the University Libraries’ website.

All Over the Map

Mammy's Cupboard

Mammy's Cupboard, near Natchez, MS, September 2010

Do you like roadside attractions? Have you ever planned the route of a road trip based solely on stopping to see a bizarre site or oddball statue proclaiming “The World’s Largest (fill-in-the-blank)”? Well I certainly have, and that’s partly why I love the current exhibition up in the Photographic Archives Gallery. All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner includes wonderful photos of some of the most beautiful oddities found along our country’s highways: a tractor-trailer perched high in the air, unique monuments built by dedicated outsiders, giant dinosaurs, a castle constructed of junk, mysterious billboards and other puzzling views. Plattner explains that he is “drawn toward unusual people, places, or things” that he feels “are exceptional, that stand out in some way, that often disappear without a trace.” During a gallery talk, Plattner explained how many of these unique American sites are vanishing and that he is compelled to document them.

El Pedorrero Muffler Shop

El Pedorrero Muffler Shop, East Los Angeles, CA, January 2012

Once long distance road travel became popular in the 1930s, businesses sprang up along the stretches of highways to attract the numerous tourists. Many of the businesses added unique attractions such as novelty architecture, colorful monuments, and other features meant to draw in customers. But as air travel surpassed family road trips and many of America’s popular highways, such as Route 66, were passed over for the new Interstate Highway System, the unique mom-and-pop businesses and roadside attractions waned in popularity. Plattner commented that many of the sites in his photographs have changed or even disappeared in the years since he shot them. So… come visit the exhibit before both the photographs and the attractions disappear!

Jackrabbit Trading Post

Jackrabbit Trading Post, near Joseph City, Arizona. January 2008

All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner will be on exhibit through June 29, 2012. The University of Louisville Photographic Archives Gallery is located in Ekstrom Library, Lower Level. We are open Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.