The former is a collection of paintings, sculpture, and quilts by contemporary African American artists from the southeastern US. Partly due to depressed economic conditions, they all feature discarded/recycled/found objects in their work. They often address slavery and post-Reconstruction oppression but also use African aesthetics and patterning to convey a sophisticated synchronicity. When we actually listen to other people's points of view we broaden our own understanding.
Lucy T Pettway's map quilt came first - the only Gee's Bend quilt that seems to be intentionally pictorial. She placed the old Pettway mansion at the top with four slave cabins below. Green fields fill the left while the blue Alabama River flows between red dirt banks on the right. This improvisational map should inspire us all. I think she pieced herself into the first slave house. Do you see a woman with lots of black hair in orange dress... or is it just my imagination?
|Housetop and Bricklayer with Bars |
quilt by Lucy T Pettway, 1955.
Loretta Pettway made a series of three quilts of the same gray, blue, and olive recycled clothing in the purest form of the Housetop pattern, although the original inspiration may have been center medallion quilts of early 19th century. The movement of the dark brown and bright blue round is quite intriguing. I keep thinking it's a single round. Nope, it's a spiral. Nope. Very clever.
|Housetop quilt by Loretta Pettway, 1963.|
William Arnett began collecting Gee's Bend quilts after seeing this one draped on a woodpile. You've seen it on the cover of his Gee's Bend quilt book and I got to see it close up for quite a while. The orange/yellow/brown fabrics are corduroy while the outer border is used denim, probably from work clothes.
|Strip Medallion quilt |
by Annie Mae Young, 1976.
Pants backs were preferable in quilts because the fronts were usually worn out from kneeling while farming. Old quilts were occasionally reused as quilt filling. Fortunately this one did not become the batting for a newer model although there are several worn spots that have been preserved with tulle.
|Blocks and Strips with work-clothes quilt |
by Lucy Mingo, 1959.
Somehow this reminds me of a Chinese Coins quilt. The colors simply vibrate with excitement.
|Medallion quilt by Loretta Pettway, 1960.|
Joe Minter evokes the forced labor African Americans from cotton before the Civil War to chain gangs in the 20th century, titling it Four Hundred Years of Free Labor. Consider how much easier it is to enrich yourself when you don't pay your workers... or don't pay them a living wage. Are we experiencing similar situations today?
|Four Hundred Years of Free Labor |
by Joe Minter, 1995.
On the way out I spotted this exquisite work by Malian-born Abdoulaye Konate who uses textiles as his primary medium. He sewed long strips and arranged them as a graceful falls in tribute to the indigo dye central to West African aesthetics.
|Bleu no.1 by Abdoulaye Konate, 2014.|
Enjoy the day, Ann