The quiltmakers, L-R: Annie Mae Young, Mary Lee Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Arlonzia Pettway, Mesie Lee Pettway.
Like so many others, I have been fascinated by the quilts made in Gee's Bend ever since they were first exhibited in Houston in 2002. I was lucky enough to see some in person in July, 2004 when Ed Mirvish Books on Art hosted a small exhibit in Toronto. That's where all the photos in this post were taken.
After standing with my mouth open in front of every quilt, I sat and watched the video of the quilters made by Tinwood Media. I bought the VHS tape and I bought the coffee table book (it was my birthday, after all). When I returned to Vancouver, I was so anxious to share what I'd learned and seen, I read the book cover to cover and gave a slide show presentation to my guild in the fall.
Last Friday night, I attended a lecture given by three of the quilters, Louisiana Bendolph, China Pettway, Revil Mosley along with Matt Arnett (who, with his father, has mounted the museum shows of quilts, published the womens' stories and traveled around the world, introducing the quilters and their work). Felicity wrote an excellent summary of the lecture you can read on her blog here and there's even a video clip of their amazing singing!!
This is one of my all-time fav quilts. I am smitten by that angled center panel, all protected by the field of light green grounded by the strong red stripe across the bottom...
made by Gloria Hoppins
On a 2009 trip to Sisters, Oregon for the famous outdoor quilt show put on by the Stitchin' Post every July, there were 8 quilters from Gee's Bend in attendance, promoting the second coffee table book, the Architecture of the Quilt. I bought it. They signed it. I cried when they broke into gospel. Look closely at this next photo:
Mensie Lee Pettway
See the labels below the quilt, defining the type of books for sale on the shelves below? How perfect. Now take a look at this next one:
Mary Lee Bendolph
Even more perfect!!!! I just loved that. Modern Art indeed.
These last few photos are all quilts made from colourful corduroy that the women were able to acquire as leftover cuts from the Freedom Quilting Bee - a sewing business not far from Gee's Bend where many worked making commercial bedding for Sears Roebuck at one time. These are some of my favourite quilts, too. The wild colours and how the quilter's used them in their compositions are truly special.
Annie Mae Young
And here you see some classic Gee's Bend work. The denim pant legs sewn right into the quilt top. We are going to deconstruct some clothing in the workshop and make some of our own compositions. I think. We may just sing for two days and that would suit me just fine.
It may take me a little bit to put it all into words and photos for you. I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity and how many of you would enjoy it too, so I promise to share.
Note: the quilts photographed here were hung a storey above the floor where I was standing. I was not able to read the tiny labels 12 feet up on the wall, identifying the each quiltmaker. I'm sorry I cannot identify the individual that created each quilt pictured here.
Edited: Thanks to Matt Arnett who identified each quilt's maker for me!