Sunday, March 20, 2011

the quilts of gee's bend

i love the beauty of a quilt. we have quilts in my family that have been passed down through generations. when i was small, i remember my mother pointing to certain patches and telling me the story behind each of the fabrics on a quilt made by her mother. the history of a family of 15 was woven into that quilt with patches made from an old yellow dress my mother wore as a girl, or a shirt worn by a brother.  some old quilts i saw at the flea market yesterday started a thought about the significant historical and familial relevance of the art of quilting.

jennie pettway and another girl with the quilter jorena pettway, 1937.  photo by arthur rothstein/ courtesy of library of congress prints and photographs division

missouri pettway, 1902-1981. "path through the woods" (quiltmaker's name), 1971, polyester knit, 73 x 69 inches. courtesy of tinwood media.
the fine art of crafting a quilt has been passed down through six generations in the small rural town of gee's bend, alabama.  the women of this area developed a characteristic quilting style based on traditional american and african american quilts with a geometric simplicity suggestive of modern art and amish quilts.  the women continue to quilt through the gee's bend quilters collective.  the quilts now have international and national acclaim and have been in many exhibitions over the years.
annie mae young, work-clothes quilt with center medallion of strips, 1976; denim, corduroy, synthetic blend; 108 by 76.5 inches.  courtesy of steve pitkin/pitkin studio / tinwood books.
jessie t. pettway, bars and string-pieced columns, 1950s; cotton; 95 by 76 inches.
courtesy of steve pitkin/pitkin studio / tinwood books.

deborah pettway young, 1916-1997. one side of two-sided quilt: "roman stripes" variation, ca 1960, cotton twill, print, jersey knit, denim, polyester, 83 x 64 inches. courtesy of tinwood media.

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