frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Web is a 24-Hour Clothesline

I would imagine that you've all heard of the Gee's Bend quilts. Briefly, this is a group of quilts made by the women of an isolated rural town in Alabama, that had such a distinctive style, that they ended up touring the country in museums. I was quite taken with them, having discovered them when I was ready to make quilts in a different way. I was lucky to see the show this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I got such a kick, and a thrill, out of how the conventions were flouted by these women. It was quite rare to see a quilt that was actually squared up. The edges were positively wavey. The color combinations were really out there. I liked them when I saw pictures of them, but, like most art, seeing them in person was 100x better.

When I first started making art quilts, it was taking me some time to warm up. I was casting about for ideas. At one point I decided that I was going to do it Gee's Bend style. As you can see it didn't really work out. It's not a bad quilt, but it's not Gee's Bend by any means. It's as if I started trying to be a blues singer while living my comfortable middle-class life. Just not authentic. I think I forgot it was supposed to be GB style and started doing it my way.

There is a quilt collective right now in Gee's Bend, selling quilts in a gallery in NYC. Some of the new quilts were also at the show in Philly and even they don't seem quite right. The true Gee's bend quilts were made in a certain place and time that cannot be reproduced.

I read that women from Gee's Bend used to hang all their quilts on clotheslines to "air out" during the spring. Many quilters used this once-a-year public display as a way to discover new ideas for their own quilts. I think we now have a 24-hour on-line clothes line where we can see eachothers work and get new ideas. I love that!


The Idaho Beauty said...

Oh yeah girl, you too uptight! VBG

Good analogy to the blues singer. That quilt just don't swing!

But I like it anyway - being Ms Uptight myself...

Chris said...

Sad but true...