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In Her Mind’s Eye: Doris Elizabeth Prouty

June 11, 2022 — July 31, 2022

Janet & William Ellery James Center at the CAM Green
13 Poplar Street, Gloucester, MA

 

The 2022 season at the Cape Ann Museum’s Janet & William Ellery James Center at CAM Green will kick off with an exhibition of quilts designed and sewn by Doris Elizabeth Prouty (1947-2020). Prouty was a resident of Gloucester for nearly 50 years, a self-taught African American quilter, a beloved community member, a teacher and a mother. Her quilts explore many traditions of American quilting, from familiar patterning to elaborate appliqué.  Together they narrate the stories of her life, her imagination, and her community here on Cape Ann.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Prouty settled in Gloucester’s Lanesville neighborhood in 1972 with her husband, Dick, where she ran the Purple Playschool from their house.  In 1978, while her children were still young, she began commuting to Boston University becoming the first person in her family to receive a college degree.  She took up quilting with her sister Carolyn Lewis in the 1980s; the two women were among the founding members of the Ebony Quilters of Queens, NY.  For Doris, quilting became a means of creative expression, and a way of building community She continually experimented with and mastered new techniques and color strategies, creating pieces that ranged from small studies, to bed quilts, to elaborate appliqué scenes.  Over time, her work became increasingly complex, and themes emerged, such as the imagined scenes from Africa (a place she never visited), and images from Gloucester.

Doris made quilts to commemorate significant moments and places, as gifts to people in her life, and imagined stories as they occurred to her.  Only late in life, at the encouragement of her family, did she begin to see her own work as something significant.

Prouty’s quilts operate on multiple levels.  They can be used as objects of utility and comfort, they tell stories through their imagery, as well as through their reasons for being made and whom they were given to, and their patterns, images and color compositions can be interpreted symbolically.

One of the strengths of Cape Ann’s art community is the range and depth of the work being created here.  The Cape Ann Museum is pleased and honored to be able to share Doris Elizabeth Prouty’s work and to celebrate her accomplishments and her artistic legacy.

The exhibition will open on Saturday, June 11 with a day-long opening celebration from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm at the James Center. On Sunday, June 19, the Cape Ann Museum is partnering with the North Shore Juneteenth Association and Community Engagement Member Toni Waldron to present the Gloucester Juneteenth Festival, which will highlight Doris Prouty’s work.

 

Doris Prouty (1947-2020). Denkyem (Mermaid), 2012. 26” x 44.” Collection of the Prouty Family.

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