Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I’m in love with the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers. I’ve been to so many museums and looked at modern art thinking this is cool but…so what? So much art produced these days (these postmodern days) seems to fall flat because usually the concepts are so convoluted (lots of big words that when you really think about them are a lot of words for “I really don’t know what this is so you take what you want to from it”). I don’t know—I just can’t connect with any of it. I want to but…it just ends up being a whole lot of trying too hard.

Gee’s Bend on the other hand is something tangible. These quilts truly are pieces of art. Many people have compared them to modernist artists trying to make connections with Mondrian, Rothko, etc. but these women never saw any of these artist’s works; they just quilted what they wanted and it’s beautiful in so many ways. You can feel their stories seep through from the corduroys, jeans, floral fabrics. Gee’s Bend is a community in Alabama rich with its own history and these quilts are embedded with their stories. The women still seem uneasy with the title of “artist” because quilting is just what they do and create. One woman, Louisiana Bendolph (Lou), said when introducing herself that she’s a homemaker with four daughters and when she decides that she’s an artist she’ll let you know.

I got the opportunity to meet with two of these artists, hear their stories, see them work. I cannot even begin to express how amazing it was. Not only do these women quilt but they sing—like angels. Lou said that “singing is like quilting; we do it because it keeps us warm…We sang to have faith; faith to find one more rag, one more piece of fabric to be able to make our quilts.” China Pettway (the other artist) was so full of soul—I don’t know any other way to explain it. When we asked her a question she said, “I just want to sing. Do you know ‘Swing Low’?” We all nodded and she started in with her rich and melodious voice us trailing behind barely echoing her notes. Oh to sing with a black woman. Everyone needs to do it at least once. (I got to twice tonight and I can’t even sing).

I really want to start quilting now. (If it could turn out like this)


  1. singing with black people is pretty much my only dream....and yes i do know swing low...every word....ugh i am so jealous

  2. thank you for posting this! reminds me of Joseph Albers(spelling??). I think we undervalue craft today. I love that you talked about art being tangible. Oh i just miss you and wish we could talk art!!