Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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The Owl
  • William Daniels
    born 1975
    born: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States ; active: United States
  • The Owl, 2017
  • Where object was made: United States
  • Reverse applique technique, Owl's body and wings base fabric is cotton satin, 100% African cotton prints from Cultured Expressions used in the features. 100% cotton background fabric. Poly/cotton binding, batting and backing.
  • Object Height/Width: 48 x 36 in
  • Museum purchase: Peter T. Bohan Art Acquisition Fund. Image by Keena Gonzalez © 2018. All rights reserved.
  • Not on display
  • 2018.0159
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Paying Homage: Celebrating the Diversity of Men in Quilts", 02-Jun-2018
Daniels describes this work:

“Solitary, nocturnal, and mysterious, the owl has a significant place in the folklore of several ancient cultures and is also present as a symbol in many contemporary spiritual orders and secret societies.

In parts of Africa, the owl is the representation of misfortune or sorcery. Kikuyu peoples of Kenya see the presence of an owl as a symbol of death. Swahili peoples believe the owl brings illness to children, while the Zulu view owls as the familiar of occultists. In Morocco, it was alleged that the cry of an owl could kill an infant.

Apache and Seminole tribes considered owls as messengers carrying supernatural warnings or messages from the dead. Cherokee peoples saw the owl as a bad omen for the imminent death of a family member or loved one. Aztecs, Mayans, and Peruvians regarded the owl as a symbol of destruction, and sacred to the lord of the dead. Chinese culture relates the owl to mystery, mysticism, secrets, intelligence, and death.

On the other hand, owls are regarded as lucky and are carried in the form of talismans and charms in Japan. Mythology frequently associates the owl with wisdom and femininity. The owl was a symbol for Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategy, and was a guardian of the Acropolis in Ancient Greece.

The owl can also be seen in several ancient texts of the Freemasons and in modern media by organizations purported by conspiracy theorists to operate under the influence of a secret Freemason order called The Illuminati.”