George Ross

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Michael Ann Williams, Christopher Antonsen, Timothy Evans


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Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Bernice Enyeart is well known in northeastern Indiana for her enormous, yet intricate quilts. Completely pieced and quilted by hand, these quilts range from traditional to abstract, and are imbued with bod and expressive choices in color and design. Bernice began quilting late in life, won a number of national and regional contests, and was featured in national quilting magazines before she quit competing altogether and ceased interaction with local and regional clubs in 1982.

The purpose of this paper will be to explore Bernice and her work with an eye towards the interaction of folklife and the quotidian within them. This thesis has been loosely divided into three basic areas: definitional issues with art, expressions of displacement or counterhegemony in a diasporatic sense, and the interaction of narrative and artifact as a performance of identity. I will proceed thusly.

After a review of the relevant literature and providing a working definition of art (one that is debatable but useful for the purposes outlined here), I will explore Bernice’s work and her methodology in chapter 3. I will examine the ways she has slowly broken away from traditional pattern to the original and representational works she makes now, exploring at length how she slowly and methodically experimented and revised traditional patterns to create abstract works without losing ideological and typological associations with the traditional history of quilting.

Bernice has had a tumultuous childhood, marked by displacement and relocation, which she reacts o in diasporic terms. In chapter 4 we will look at what these reactions are, and see expressions of counterhegemony that are either intentionally or subconsciously stitched into her work, by closely examining one of her pieces.

In chapter 5 we will look at community and narrative. Bernice has an on-again, off-again relationship with quilt clubs. Additionally, she was a collector of antique unfinished quilt tops before she became a quilter. We will look at how these factors came to influence her work, and her sense of community.

Finally, Bernice maintains a complete set of narratives to accompany her work, and it is rare that she will display a quilt without telling the relating memorate. Through the performance of these narratives Bernice establishes and creates her identity. We will end this study by examining how these narratives and their performance serve to define her: how they are in fact mini-allegories of her own remarkable life.


Anthropology | Art and Design | Arts and Humanities | Fiber, Textile, and Weaving Arts | Folklore | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology