29 November 2009
I've been trying for a while now to do a post on the quilts of Gees Bend but I can never quite figure out what to say. So I'm going take Sgt. Friday's advice and report "just the facts ma'am". I think the quilts speak for themselves!
Gee's Bend is a poor tenant community in Alabama located in what is known at the Black Belt of the south. A common misconception is that the term "black belt" refers to the demographic living in the area since most residents are descendants of slaves. In fact, the term refers to the color of the fertile soil. Though the region functions mostly below poverty level the residents are rich in the tradition of quilt making. The Gee's Bend quilters of the mid-twentieth century were all but cut off from the modern world yet somehow managed to piece together quilts that appear to be works of modern art.
I've always been fascinated by these quilts. I remember watching a documentary about them a few years ago and loved hearing the little ol' southern ladies talk about their craft as it was to them - just another day of work making the most of what they had. Their intentions were not to make "art" but simply to utilize the materials they had to make quilts for their families, just as all quilters do. When the pieces were shown at the Whitney in New York, the ladies wouldn't even get on a airplane to attend the show! They had to arrange a bus to pick them up in Alabama and drive them all the way to NY.
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