Thursday, May 3, 2007

lovely surprises

Loretta Pettway, "Housetop" variation, 2003

Arlonzia Pettway, "Lazy Gal," c. 1975

I had a lovely surprise today! I helped put together a presentation for an event at work this morning and had just finished setting up and was waiting for the event to begin, when a group of lovely ladies, all gussied up for the occasion, came and sat by me. One introduced herself and, before I could protest, unabashedly gave me a huge hug. As the program began, I realized that these women were some of the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama. I was thrilled ~ I hugely admire their work and made several trips to the Gee's Bend exhibition at the Corcoran several years ago. Their work is part of a generations-long tradition of extraordinary quilt making. The quilts are incredibly expressive, colorful, and abstract. The first time I saw them I was shocked by how different they were from any kind of needlework I had seen before. For more on Gee's Bend, there was a great article in the October 2006 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

The photograph below was taken by FSA photographer, Marion Post Wolcott, in Gee's Bend, Alabama, in 1939. It shows a woman named Jorena Pettway and her daughter ~ they are making a chair cover out of bleached flour sacks and flower decorations from paper. I adore the chairs on the porch, which were made by Jorena, along with almost all the furniture in her house.

(quilts: Collection of the Tinwood Alliance; bottom image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection)


Christine said...

Dear Janae - I am hooked on your blog! I feel like I'm getting a free online course in all things historical/artsy/interesting...I learn something new from you every day. Thanks!

Janet said...

Thank you my dear! If you are interested, perhaps we can take a road trip to Balitimore this summer when the Gee's Bend quilts come to the Walters (15 June - 26 August)...