Detail from 60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education: Now What_2013

Raw Material: Quilts by NedRa Bonds

On display at the Fulginiti Gallery from March 14 - October 31, 2024.  

To “bear witness” is to show that something exists, or is true; it is a proclamation of presence, a voice for something or someone that may no longer exist.

Through narrative quilts, artist NedRra Bonds bears witness to the people, events, and experiences that have not only shaped her life, but more broadly the world that surrounds her. This presentation of quilts highlights the ways textile artists explore an array of topics ranging from our ongoing reckoning with racism and inequity to healthcare and bodily autonomy. Bonds also takes an unflinching look at our social institutions by connecting historical narratives to their present day manifestations. In her work she quotes her grandmother who often said, “the words may be different, but the sentiments remain the same.” Bonds renders her sentiments through the images she creates in her quilts. “It’s a quieter way of making an issue relevant,” she says. Quiltmaking draws on rich craft traditions borne out of the South that fostered community and communication among their creators. As objects of utility, quilts provide warmth and comfort; as objects of art, they both are canvases and repositories of memory.

Bonds learned how to quilt from both of her grandmothers at six years old through an exacting practice that emphasized discipline, stillness, and silence–challenging demands of a young, observant, and outspoken child. While growing up Bonds channeled her energy into numerous forms of activism, from Civil Rights to environmental justice. As an adult she abandoned the practice of quilting for decades, however she discovered a new avenue for the medium when an important piece of history located in her childhood community of Quindaro in Kansas City, Kansas faced the threat of erasure. In 1988 Bonds created a narrative quilt of seven panels that recalls Quindaro’s history of abolitionism and its ties to the Underground Railroad. She used the quilt as a backdrop for her activism against efforts to raze the area, bringing it with her when she spoke to City Hall to protest a proposed landfill on numerous occasions. With her first quilt, Bonds resurrected her artistic practice, transforming a craft into a tool for amplifying her voice–in doing so she created a full-circle expression of resistance.

Raw Material highlights selections from over 25 years of NedRa Bonds’ rich and provocative narrative quilts, providing audiences a holistic view of her artistic journey. It offers an autobiographical declaration of Black Womanhood coupled with reflections on racial and social injustice, intimate encounters with the medical establishment, and her family legacy. “Get Off Me,” for example, depicts a woman running away from the confining social labels, norms, and value systems that define women solely through childbearing; instead, she portrays a liberated figure expressing freedom from restrictive societal pressures. And, as Bonds faced a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis and the physical and emotional toll that its grueling treatment takes, she expresses her defiance through a quilt: “I Have Cancer, It Doesn’t Have Me.” The exhibit is rounded out by a quilt inspired by a poem written by her son, two quilts created by her granddaughter, and a drawing by her great-granddaughter. This multigenerational showcase reveals how the tradition of quilting is lovingly passed down, as new generations stitch their own narratives and personal truths into fabric.

These works, in short, operate as journals rendered in cloth. Some are protest quilts, others are affirmations of strength and perseverance, yet they all share a common thread of serving as a vessel of voice. “With quilting you can say anything,” says Bonds. “It’s just fabric.” Despite the softer medium, her messages still pack a potent punch.

This exhibition invites viewers to re-imagine their relationship with cloth by experiencing its capacity for preserving memory, honoring the past, and creating connection.


Essay by Colony Little


"I am not a survivor. I am a conqueror," NedRa Bonds asserts. Read about Bonds’ motivation to turn the family tradition of quilting into a platform for political protest in the BBC feature, The Angry Quilter>> 

Nedra Bonds: Breast Cancer Survivor Learns the Art of Healing, documents the artist's journey at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

This exhibit is guest curated by Kendall Taylor (she/hers).  Kendall graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Cum Laude BA in Art History, Africana Studies. She currently works at the Denver Art Museum while building her historical consulting business.  Instagram: kendallthekurator or email:

View the Exhibition Catalog>>

Denver Post Arts & CultureIn A Secret Gallery, Simple Stories Told in Textiles, by Ray Mark Rinaldi, May 12, 2024.


CMS Login