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The Quilts of Gee's Bend Hardcover – September 23, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Gee's Bend, Alabama, is a hamlet of 750 residents, most of whom are the descendants of slaves from the former Pettway plantation (and bear the surname Pettway), who during the New Deal purchased farms from the government. For much of the last century, the women of Gee's Bend have produced some of the most striking examples of American vernacular art, sharing them among the community and storing them within their homes. Aside from a brief stint of notoriety during a Civil Rights-era "Freedom Quilting Bee," this catalogue, accompanying an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, marks the work's entry into the public sphere. Founded by art collector William Arnett and Jane Fonda, the nonprofit Tinwood Alliance devotes itself to the cultural legacy of Gee's Bend, here offering 195 illustrations (162 in full color) documenting the quilts and the lives of many of their makers. The oversize format allows the many full-page reproductions to approximate the sensation of a large quilt spread on the page; the many "Housetop" quilts, with arresting geometric patterns and terrific color sense, speak for themselves. The book and exhibition make an important contribution to American cultural history.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
At first glance, the quilts of this collection are simply stunning--rich colors in surprising combinations, refreshingly irregular geometric compositions with hardly a right angle among them, big blocks whose seams virtually vibrate with energy. Then consider the history of the community they come from, and these quilts become a stunning illustration of resourcefulness. Gee's Bend, a remote peninsula on the Alabama River, is an isolated place, one that has known extreme poverty and struggle. Its quilters of the twentieth century are showcased here. Three insightful essays on the community's history and its quilting tradition make up for a self-consciously scholarly introduction. The words of the quilters themselves follow. Brief accounts of their lives and thoughts on quilting accompany full-page photographs of their accomplishments. This large-format hardcover, and coinciding exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, should guarantee the women of Gee's Bend the prominence they deserve in the story of the American quilt. Marya Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The quiltmakers are all impoverished, poor, black women from Gees Bend, AL and are no more than one generation removed from slavery. None have had formal artistic training or any schooling on primary, secondary, or complimentary colors - yet collectively, they have generated what many consider the most compelling collection of modern art in America.
The most compelling thing about the quilts are the incredibly personal stories that motivated the quiltmaker as they composed their masterpieces. Some of the stories will move you to tears as these brave women bare their souls in explaining how they found within themselves the ability to create such inspirational pieces of art.
Last I heard, they had received funding for a national tour and had been to the nations most prestigious museums, namely the Milwaukee Art Museum (by Santiago Calatrava for all you architecture fans). If you should have the chance to obtain a copy of the documentary, any book with their work, or have the priviledge to view their work in person - I would highly recommend it!
A true testament of the human spirit and our innate desire to express our innermost, personal feelings!
At the end of October in 2003, I was in Milwaukee to see this Quilt exhibition. Friends of Art from Indiana University drove to Chicago and then on to the marvelous museum in Milwaukee to experience the Quilts. What an awakening! That day I bought a Video. Since that time I have purchased the DVD and (when I found it online) the hardback book The Quilts of Gee's Bend! What a treasure! I am overjoyed to have this book and to have had the viewing experience! [I also use the USPS stamps and the book of postcards!] --Sarah K. Robinson
A wonderful blend of photographs and commententary by the artists, this book was published to accompany the museum exhibits of these renown women and their art as their quilts were exhibited at selected art galleries throughout the United States.
This book should be of great interest to those interested in African American art in the United States, original primitive quilting, life in early emancipated colonies in the South, and Gee's Bends importance in the Civil Right's movement.
I live in north central Arizona and reading this was like having an old friend come to visit. I felt like I was showing him around my favorite part of the world and marveling at his impressions.
An unexpected bonus are the encounters with other authors/characters such as Edward Abbey, Doug Peacock, William Eastlake, and his observations on the works of Charles Bowden whom I think is one of the most neglected writers in the modern southwest.
I did not always agree with some of the author's conclusions and opinions but no matter......Kittredge at his best will challenge any readers point of view frequently. He will keep you on your toes.
I have been to this area of Alabama and it is still untouched by modernization.
Truly a marvel publication for anyone that enjoys a needle and thread!