Gee's Bend

On Mother's Day, Mom and I went to see the Gee's Bend exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Of course, we had heard about the quilts; the groundbreaking exhibit in 2002 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston made rock stars of these crafters, some of whom now have gallery representation in New York.

The quilts are remarkable examples of outsider art; forms that emerged in isolation, Gee's Bend, Alabama being fairly remote, and made from old  work clothes, curtains, sheets, whatever was on hand. In the video accompanying the exhibition, one quilter said, if you found a scrap of cloth on the ground, you'd take it home and wash it and make yourself a quilt. 

You'll see finer examples of "quilting"--the actual stitching of tops to backs--in other forms of early American quilting. I love their discipline and precision, their tight, traditional forms. But the Gee's Bend quilts, with their geometric features and stunning displays of color, are breathtaking. The Gee's Bend "vocabulary"--abstract, minimal and thoroughly modern--born from necessity and refined out of pride and the part of the human spirit that yearns to create and reflect beauty--is its own special language.

Of course in our culture, art is a product; dollars get attached to that product and people profit, hopefully some of  those people are the artists themselves. I wonder what the quilters think about the attention paid to their quilts, especially the older women who survived the Depression, living on grit and tenacity and faith. Are they amused? Delighted? Are they concerned how the art world will influence younger quilters?

Regardless, if you get a chance to see them, go. They are so full of electric creativity, they'll make you crackle at the site of it.

P.S. I'm going with a larger font here. Aging eyes, don't you know.

Comments (3) -

May 15. 2008 06:16


Love the new font...Thanks

Pam |

May 15. 2008 09:44


My middle-aged eyes thank you.

Harper |

May 16. 2008 02:44


I saw the Gee's Band quilts while in San Francisco and loved the exhibit. Was amazed at the similarity of patterns between them and others quilts made in other parts of the U.S. at the same time.
p.s.  the new font is soooo kind to the eyes

Kay |

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