Carnegie Visual Arts Center

Current Exhibition

Creations of Hope: Quilts from Gee’s Bend

January 19 – March 5, 2016 — Creations of Hope: Quilts from Gee’s Bend features over 25 quilts and other fabric works of art by members of the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective.  Artists include Rachel George-Carey, Lue Ida B. McCloud, Lucy Mingo, Flora Moore, China Pettway, Crayree Pettway, Essie Pettway, Janice Pettway, Jessica Pettway-Witherspoon, Lola Pettway, Stella Pettway,  Florine Smith, and Lucy Witherspoon.

The community of Gee’s Bend is nestled into a curve in the Alabama River southwest of Selma, Alabama. Founded in antebellum times on the site of cotton plantations owned by Joseph Gee, the town’s women developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Modern Art having been compared to the works of Henri Matisse and Paul Klee.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, making quilts was considered a domestic responsibility for women in Gee’s Bend. As young girls, many of the women trained or apprenticed in their craft with their mothers, female relatives, or friends. Other quilters, however, have been virtually self-taught. Women with large families often made dozens upon dozens of quilts over the course of their lives.

In 2003, all the living quilters of Gee’s Bend — more than fifty women — founded the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective to serve as the exclusive means of selling and marketing the quilts being produced by the women of the Bend. The Collective is owned and operated by the women of Gee’s Bend. Every quilt sold by the Gee’s Bend Quilt Collective is unique, individually produced, and authentic.

The women of the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective all live in the area of Rehoboth, Alberta and Boykin, Alabama. The women of Gee’s Bend have developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American and African American quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art. The quiltmakers passed their skills and aesthetic down through at least six generations to the present.

The women consider the process of “piecing” the quilt “top” to be highly personal. In Gee’s Bend, the top—the side that faces up on the bed—is always pieced by a quilter working alone and reflects a singular artistic vision. The subsequent process of “quilting” the quilt—sewing together the completed top, the batting (stuffing), and the back—is sometimes then performed communally, among small groups of women.