NEW YORK - Our country's history is seen through the lens of many kinds of different Americans.

In a new exhibit, "American Perspectives," at the American Folk Art Museum on the Upper West Side, curator Stacy Hollander explores themes like nationhood, freedom, and opportunity.

"Our country is not a monolith, that there is a diversity of experience, a diversity of population, diversity of thought," Hollander said. "It all contributes to the culture that we share."

One of the star pieces of the exhibit is this quilt by Clara Martin featuring every president of the United States until 1964:

"This is in a construction that is called the 'crazy quilt,'" Hollander said. "She decided that this was the perfect way to present the history of the American presidency."

Another quilt rich in history is this one by Jessie Bell Telfair, a black cook from Georgia fired from her job after she tried to register to vote:

"The quilt became the natural outlet for her to express this experience that had been so significant and so damaging," Hollander said.

And showing how the anti-immigration sentiment is a recurring theme in our history, a screen of the Order of United American Mechanics, an anti-Catholic and nativist secret society organized in Philadelphia.

"This is 1860 or so, and this organization was promoting the idea that the jobs should go only to American-born citizens," Hollander said.

The artwork on display is part of the museum's collection, highlighting the rich diversity of self-taught artists and their contributions to our society.

"Especially at a moment when we as a nation, as individuals, people, Americans, are going to the polls to vote for their favorite presidential candidates, you get a sense of the fact that that artwork and others talk about personal experience," said Jason Busch, director of the American Folk Art Museum.

The exhibit runs through May 31. The museum is always free to the public.


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