The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting a collection of quilts from The Gee’s Bend Collective, right in my very own town!  The Snail clued me in, and we decided to meet there (without kids!) for some mutual inspiration and adult company.  What a joy it was.

The show was small, only ten quilts total, but what it lacked in quantity, it far surpassed in quality.

The quits are the work of a multi-generational group of women who are the descendants of slaves in the area of Selma, Alabama.  These women, out of the sheer necessity to keep family and loved ones warm, made beauty from discarded fabric. Tiny fabric scraps, discarded bedsheets, old blue jeans, parts of old sweaters, and even dirty rags found on the side of the road were worked into their beautiful quilts.  Making due however they could, these women took refuse and turned it into art.

Working without patterns or (at times) sewing machines, these women left behind traditional quilt patterns and chose to work in an improvisational way.  It is amazing what can be done with the humble needle and thread.  Nothing like this had been done before, and their work has inspired an entire new wave of improvisational quilt making.

What these women contributed to the field of modern art in this country cannot be understated.  According to this exhibit, their work is viewed as important to modern art as that of Henri Matisse or Paul Klee.  A retrospective of their work exhibited in museums of twelve American cities including The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

I found myself choking back tears as I read the words in the exhibit, as soulful African-American spirituals played softly in the background.

I walked away from the exhibit feeling humbled, inspired, and grateful for the abundance that I receive every day.

It just amazes me when a day starts out so ordinary and ends so profoundly.

4 Responses to “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend”

  1. maggie writes:

    It sounds the perfect blend of things you love, quilting, using what you have, and amazing artistic vision!

  2. kate writes:

    they really are so striking. what beauty there is.

  3. kangaroo writes:

    I so much enjoyed being there with you, and am so inspired to totally improv my next quilt!

  4. Tammy writes:

    Wow! What a story, what beauty. Thanks for sharing. (Just wish I had the oomph to get my own quilting notions off the ground.)

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