Art, Quilting, and Life in the Deep South with the Gee's Bend Quilters

by - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

L-R. Matt Arnett, Rita Mae Pettway and her daughter Louisiana Bendolph.
The October 19th presentation was the third time that Vancouver has been blessed with a visit from the quilters of Gee's Bend.

Rita Mae Pettway and Louisiana Bendolph talked about life in rural Alabama and the conditions under which the quilting traditions developed. Today the quilts of Gee's Bend are perhaps the most famous quilts in the world. The works make textile artists proud because they are such a clear example of functional craft being recognized at the highest levels of the fine art world. These are strong quilts, bold and powerful. In their strength they are the voice of the people who make them.

Rita Mae Pettway's "Housetop" quilt.

Louisiana has taken the graphic imagery of the quilt making process and applied it in non-fabric media. She has worked in silk-screening, etching, and had one of her prints New Generation  translated into ceramic tiles for an installation at the San Francisco International Airport.

Louisiana Bendolph's print, and the ceramic tiles being prepared.

American Housetop (for the Arnetts)
Louisiana Bendolph
Color aquatint, spitbite aquatint and
 softground etching on paper

The women were joined by Matt Arnett. Matt and his father William have dedicated their lives to the Gee's Bend quilters, and to documenting the art traditions, music, stories, and lives of the African American community in the Deep South.

Biographies of the quilters of Gee's Bend can be found online at the Souls Grown Deep Foundation website. The website also has an excellent section on the different quilting patterns.

Rita Mae Pettway speaks about her childhood, her daughter, Lou is behind her.
During the presentation a number of images of both quilts and quiltmakers were presented. Matt Arnett has generously offered to make these available. Once we compile some annotations we will post them here on the Maiwa blog.

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  1. Great to hear that at least one of these women is being financially rewarded for her exceptional art!


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