“After Gee’s Bend” was a project years in the making. I followed the women of Gees Bend and their breathtaking quilt designs for over 10 years. I just couldn’t get enough of their bold attack on design; making un-square squares, crooked angles, mismatched patters, and daring leaps of imagination that created the modern art quilts hanging in museums around the world.
I fell in love with the quilts and the amazing spirit of the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. It took years for me to get up the nerve to attempt to interpret their work into a needlepoint — inspired by their quilts but in my own style. I ‘felt’ the fabrics and stories of each fabric. I participated in the action of ripping the fabrics into odd shapes (often they didn’t have scissors to cut them straight). This piece took me on quite an emotional journey and every stitch was my little tribute to their art.
Technically, the challenge was to develop ways to emulate different kinds of denim in tiny little stitches of thread. I had to blend hand painted threads in multiple strands to emulate well-worn denim and old printed fabrics. I de-stranded hand painted 6-ply cotton floss and then re-combined individual strands back together to create 5 plies that came close to looking like different shades of well-worn denim.
The uneven and ragged edges of my piece speaks to the condition many of these quilts were found. These quilts were made for practicality — not art. They had a job to do. The women actually nailed them on their cabin walls to keep out the cold and dirt.
“After Gee’s Bend” does not pretend to be perfect in any way. But I wanted it to shout out, in celebration and defiance of the conditions in which the originals were created; speaking beyond the rusty nails that were casually hammered through them.
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