Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gee's Bend

I've still got images of folk art pieced quilts spinning around in my head after seeing Gee's Bend quilts in DC last week -- at a law firm! It's true. I've been to tons of quilt shows, but never one in a law firm.

My friend Kristin (who I met online years ago, of course) introduced me to my new friend Tonya (who I met online recently and now in person!). Tonya was contacted by a DC law firm for her insight about quilting. She says they found her simply because she has blogged about the Gee's Bend quilts. So, this twisted tail of connections and networking led us to an opportunity to view several quilts created by Mary Lee Bendolf and Loretta Pettway Bennett of Gee's Bend, Alabama.

They were really amazing.

I had an opportunity to talk with Mary Lee, pictured here in the dark purple suit. We were discussing the denim and pink quilt on the lower left.
I was looking at it earlier and discovered the pink was a cut up Old Navy t-shirt with a picture of a kitten. You could still see the Old Navy logo in one spot. Mary Lee explained that as she was piecing the quilt at one point she ripped out all the stitching and started over -- except she didn't say "ripped out," she used a much more colloquial phrase, but I don't remember exactly what it was. I asked her why. She said it just wasn't working. She didn't like the design.

These quilts are first and foremost utilitarian. They are true to that tradition. But they are also art and making those design decisions is part of the process -- as Mary Lee suggested when she talked about redoing the pink and denim quilt. The combination of the process, design, history and culture of Gee's Bend really make this an amazing collection. It was a privilege to see and TOUCH these quilts.

The law firm is helping Mary Lee and Loretta make connections with museums in the DC area with hopes that their works will become part of the permanent collections here in the capitol. (If you ask me, they would be perfect at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture which will open in 2015.)

Then we had lunch from a food truck!

And later we ate tons of chips and drank some margaritas.

Seriously: quilts, good food, drinks, friends... a fantastic day!


Kristin L said...

Seriously great weekend!

Tonya Ricucci said...

it was a fantastic weekend. so great to meet you in person.

Karen said...

I saw a few of these years ago in San Francisco, and fell in love. Luck you to see them so close up and with Mary Lee. What a treat.

Natalya Khorover Aikens said...

what a fab weekend!!!

chris said...

I person needs nothing more. I saw some Gee's Bends quilt here in Brisbane Australia a few years ago. Truly amazing!

Charlotte Scott said...

Wow! And exhibition where you can touch!