Artists Who Inspire: the Quilters of Gee’s Bend

Jan 3 ,



Today we’re discussing the artists who influenced this kitchen dining nook from a West 75th Street Apartment. A 2003 exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, captured my imagination. It was a collection of quilts made up of bold and unexpected shapes. The quilts’ graphic forms called out to be used as a statement in a modern space.

Housetop by Mary L. Bennett, pictured above, was the strongest influence for the kitchen dining nook. The overlapping, geometric shapes and fearless use of saturated colors translated beautifully onto the walls. The quilts are a celebration of creativity and wit, making them the perfect backdrop to the table where the kids work on school papers and where the first conversations of the day happen over breakfast.

Gee’s Bend is an African American community in southwestern Alabama, a hamlet surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River. Much of the population can trace their ancestry to slaves who worked on the cotton plantation owned by the namesake of Gee’s Bend. The women of the community quilted as a necessity, but as time went on, they developed a unique and creative style. The inventiveness of these patchworks was due in part to the isolation of Gee’s Bend– the women used whatever pieces of material were available. One quilter, Arlonzia Pettway, created a quilt out of her father’s work clothes after he passed away. In 2002, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas organized an exhibition of sixty handmade quilts dating from the 1930s on. This show, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, traveled around the country and eventually came to the Whitney.

Alvia Wardlaw, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, said, “The compositions of these quilts contrast dramatically with the ordered regularity … of Euro-American quiltmaking. There’s a brilliant, improvisational range of approaches to composition that is more often associated with the inventiveness and power of the leading 20th-century abstract painters than it is with textile-making.” In his New York Times review of the show, Michael Kimmelman agreed, comparing the quilters’ work to that of Henri Matisse and Paul Klee, two of my favorite artists. The quilts inspired me to blend art into interior design, creating a beautiful and comfortable space for our client.

We hope you enjoyed the insight into our creative process! Be sure to explore more of this project in our portfolio, and check out the articles below for more information on the Gee’s Bend Quilters.

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