On Saturday, February 6th, 2010 the Nevada Musuem of Art started a wonderful exhibit….A SURVEY OF GEE’S BEND QUILTS…it will continue until April 11th.
I plan on seeing it on my furlough day next week. I’m so excited!
The quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend are known internationally for their beautiful, abstract and bold quilt designs. In 2002, the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers made their national debut through their critically acclaimed art exhibition, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. Since that time, the artists, who for generations made their quilts for utilitarian purposes, where now re-inspired to create quilts both for everyday use and for art’s sake.
While the older quilts tell stories of harder times in Gee’s Bend, including the Great Depression, the Roosevelt era, and the Civil Rights movement, many of the newer quilts seem to resonate with happiness and optimism through their bright colors and bold designs.
On Sunday, February 21st our local PBS channel, KNPB will have the documentary ‘The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend’ on at 12 pm.
The artists are all descended from slaves who worked a plantation called Pettway, located on the Alabama River. The plantation owner’s surname is still ubiquitous in the community, and the residents still inhabit the land their ancestors once slaved. But now they own it. Through generations, the women of Gee’s Bend have taught their daughters to quilt, using any piece of material available – from feed sacks to old work clothes. During times when self-expression was discouraged, their singing and their unique quilt patterns represented the women’s only creative outlets. Geographically and culturally isolated from other communities, they developed techniques and styles with little outside influence; hence this quilting coterie has been compared to the great artistic enclaves of the Italian Renaissance.
About 10 years ago, an art historian “discovered” these quiltmakers and began introducing their work to curators. Quilts that once kept families of sometimes 16 children warm inside drafty log cabins now hang inside some of the world’s finest museums. Textiles that were once thought worthless now sell for thousands of dollars. A new sense of self-respect has evolved. And what is most extraordinary, despite their many struggles, the women are not bitter. Wherever they go, they leave behind a kind of inexplicable residual joy – as though they are unwitting ambassadors of goodwill and examples to the world that the key to true happiness exists in positive human relationships, not material wealth.
I missed both A Dialogue with the Gee’s Bend Quilters AND Quilting Demonstration with the Quilters of Gee’s Bend over the weekend… 😦 I was quilting at home and didn’t even know they were in town! Drats!