Last weekend M and I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a special installation - Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt. He went to the museum with his family over Thanksgiving and they all came back and told me that there was some special quilt exhibit there. "Gee's Bend?!?!" I exclaimed, with a dramatic gasp. I have been dying to see this exhibit and I didn't even know it was right down the road!
Gee's Bend is a town in Alabama full of women who have been making quilts since the 30s or earlier. The quilters all have a very specific style, and the community as a whole produces quilts that are entirely unique. A lot of them are variations on the housetop block or a combination of blocks and strips, so the patterns are very boxy and geometric. The color combinations are phenomenal and often unexpected too.
The exhibit was very well curated to display the uniqueness of this community of artists. Each room emphasized a different aspect of Gee's Bend quilt making. For example, a lot of quilts were made out of old work clothes, some with the pockets still on. There was an entire room full of these quilts, the well worn spots creating a pattern-within-a-pattern on each quilt.
Another room was full of quilts made out of green, brown, and yellow corduroy from the 70s, scraps from a nearby pillow-making factory. It was amazing to see the variety of patterns produced from exactly the same materials.
("Housetop" 2003 by Nancy Pettway. I love this one to bits.)
This travelling exhibit is the second showing of Gee's Bend quilts; the first one toured in 2002. Many of the quilters had long-since stopped quilting by the time the show began touring but were inspired to start again and many of the quilts in the second exhibit were made in the years since the first exhibit. The patterns and striking color combinations are still evident in the more recent quilts.
I apologize for the poor lighting in these photos; I was sneakily taking them from chest level while walking through the exhibit. I'm sure it's downright illegal but I honestly could not help myself. And I didn't use a flash, so I really don't see the harm in it. Enjoy them now, before I'm forced to remove them from the internet!
For more crafty inspiration come to the weekly Artists and Fleas craft fair in Brooklyn this weekend! My fellow crafter Jessica will be selling there and I'm sure the whole thing is going to be a huge drain on my wallet.