29 November 2009

Quilts of Gee's Bend

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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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20 comments:

Corinna said...

these quilts are lovely, so coloursful!

Lexie said...

my grandmother is a quilter and i am pretty fascinated with the history of quilting. can you imagine how good it must feel to finish one?

CocoCherie said...

I wish I knew how to quilt. Those are gorgeous patterns. I'd love to have a quilt like any of those on my bed. It is a beautiful form of art.

monica burnett said...

good grief those are AMAZING! i want all of them.

http://monicaburnett.blogspot.com/

Lara said...

I wish I could quilt! I was never taught. We were always a knitting family (to which I do not possess any talent in what so ever). These are fantastic. The colors are just so vivid! great post!

Priscilla Tan said...

They look like paintings or prints from far! Very modern and lovely quilts!! Thanks for sharing:)

www.ilovechalk.com

Mrs Gorman said...

They remind me of the backs of Ralli quilts of India and Pakistan: http://www.mrsgorman.com/wordpress/2009/01/28/ralli-quilts/

Rebecca Westby said...

I had the opportunity to see the quilts at a Portland gallery and fell in love with everything about them. Thanks for sharing the work of these creative, amazing women!

sarah said...

I saw them when the High in Atlanta exhibited them in 2006. They were stunning! I remember thinking how extraordinary that, in a modern world where most art seems to be made for the sake of art, this was made out of necessity and resourcefulness, and thus had such a beautiful soul about it. It lacks pretension entirely. Very lovely, thank you so much for posting this!

jesse.anne.o said...

I remember that exhibit. I remember being surprised at the different types of fabric uses - from poly to cord. Aside from the atypical color-blocking, that's what I remember the most. I don't usually love quilts but I recall really liking those.

Leilani said...

I'd never heard of these quilts before, it's interesting that many of them look similar to wellknown painters working in the same time period like Rothko and Frank Stella.

serah-marie said...

The Gee's Bend quilts have has a huge impact on my life. I was lucky enough to stumble upon that show you mentioned at the Whitney and spend almost 3 hours staring. It changed my art work and is probably why I studied Fibre Arts. I'm so happy when I see others loving them also. yay!

fashionforwriters said...

Thank you so much for this post! I'm especially intrigued with the questions of intention, reception and utility in art--it reminds me a little bit of groups like Konono No 1 and groups from Africa who use likembé instruments because they live in quite poor neighborhoods where these musicians have to make do with makeshift musical instruments, and as a result the music they produce is often interpreted by western audiences as 'avant-garde' or experimental, when in reality this 'avant-garde' sound is just a result of having to use wooden rods and scrap metal to produce music.

Anyway, it's all super interesting, and I'm so glad to be introduced to the Gee's Bend quilts!

xo Jenny Fashion for Writers

Delightfully Tacky said...

Those are so cool. Gorgeous and very Rothko/Frank Stella. Plus the history is incredible.

VestedBeeVintage said...

soo striking I love beautiful colorful things! lovely quilts!

jayne said...

these are beautiful, I used to loathe quilts but these completely turn the traditional notion of quilt on its head, so fun and vibrant!

amy102088 said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool
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Thanks

Aleksandra said...

wow... I'd love to have one!

Rachel C. said...

I'm going to have to look into this documentary. I'm fascinated with the south and with textile arts, so this sounds very exciting!

Jana said...

Beautiful!!