Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Quilts of Gees Bend


      The Quilts of Gees Bend were created by a group of women who live in the isolated, African American hamlet of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Like many American quilters, the women transformed a necessity into a work of pleasure. "The compositions of these quilts contrast dramatically with the ordered regularity associated with many styles of Euro-American quiltmaking. There's a brilliant, improvisational range of approaches to composition that is more often associated with the inventiveness and power of the leading 20th-century abstract painters than it is with textile-making," Alvia Wardlaw, curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts.
      The quilting tradition in Gee's Bend goes back to the 19th century, when the community was the site of a cotton plantation owned by a Joseph Gee. Perhaps influenced in part by patterned African textiles, female slaves pieced together strips of cloth to make bedcovers. Throughout the post-bellum years and into the 20th century, Gee’s Bend women made quilts to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones and electricity. Along the way they developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.
      The quilts of Gee's Bend have been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. 
      More than 50 quiltmakers make up the Gee's Bend Collective. The Collective is owned and operated by the women of Gee’s Bend. Every quilt sold by the Gee’s Bend Quilt Collective is unique, individually produced, and authentic — each quilt is signed by the quilter and labeled with a serial number. Rennie Young Miller is the Collective's president.

More Links to Gees Bend Quilts: Catalog of Quilts by Gees Bend'The Quilts of Gee's Bend' by npr * Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial * The Future of Gee's Bend * Fabric of Their Lives * The Quilts of Gee's Bend PBS * Tinwood: Gee's Bend Documentary *

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