On Friday, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a meet and greet of sorts for two Gee’s Bend quilters, Mary Lee Bendolph and Loretta Pettway Bennett. The event (at the offices of a local law firm who represents the artists) was held primarily to introduce large art galleries and universities to the quilters, in hopes that their unique quilts will hang in permanent installations. I was so glad Patton Boggs reached out to the DC Modern Quilt Guild–I would have never known about it otherwise.
There were a handful of quilts on tables, and we were invited to touch the quilts–with all of the textures, fabrics, and unique hand quilting details, it is almost impossible NOT to touch these quilts! We watched a few short videos–one highlighted the work of Mary Lee Bendolph, one highlighting the work of Loretta Pettway Bennett, and one about the community of Gee’s Bend in general.
Mary Lee Bendolph and Loretta Pettway Bennett
One of the most interesting things about the experience was the connection between music–especially gospel music–community, and quilts. Loretta (who is a 5th generation quilter) talked about listening to music, dancing, and singing as she makes her quilts, and I think the joy and movement she feels when making the quilts actually manifest themselves in her work. In Mary Lee’s video, you could see and feel the importance of gospel music, religion, and sisterhood in her life and in her quilts. She also sang for us, which was a treat.
Mary Lee Bendolph with some of her quilts in the background
True to the Gee’s Bend tradition, Loretta only uses clothing in her quilts.
Interested in learning more about the Quilts of Gee’s Bend?
Representative Mary Sewell (D-Alabama) gave a congressional tribute to these two quilters last week–I recommend reading it here.
Auburn University has a Catalog of Gee’s Bend Quilts
I check this excellent book out from the library every few months: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend
Interesting 2003 NPR story on Gee’s Bend