LOS ANGELES — From functional articles of comfort and warmth to beloved family heirlooms to stirring pieces that weave art and activism, the "Fabric of a Nation" exhibit, now on display at the Skirball Cultural Center, represents some 300 years of quilting history.

“Quilts are embedded in the American experience," said Jennifer Swope, associate curator of textiles and fashion arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where the exhibit originated.

Visitors can see the handiwork of suffragettes fighting for equal rights. Los Angeles artist Ramsess has a piece depicting Ruby Bridges, while another haunting quilt reimagines Ella Fitzgerald’s "Strange Fruit."  

Featured artist Sabrina Gschwandtner lives in LA and uses her nontraditional pieces to highlight the story of women’s contributions to the early days of filmmaking. Using found footage she’s collected from film archives around the world, she literally stitches the film strips together, editing them into a new patterned image. She says the history of textiles and the history of film are in a way cut from the same cloth.

“Women were hired as editors because they were thought to have nimble fingers from doing things like sewing," she said. "And the earliest camera was modeled after the newly popular sewing machines.”

"Fabric of a Nation" will be on display at the Skirball through March 12.