Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quilters at Greg Kucera Saturday

Well as you can see I got quite excited about the book I've been reading on African-American quilters, and it has sent me back to my books on the Gee's Bend quilts. I hope you enjoy the quotes below as much as I do. There are so many more that speak to the organic creative process of artists open to the suggestion of accident and surprise, as well as to the characters of the quilters.

The history of the African-American approach to quilt design is deep, with sensibilities rooted in cultural traditions and art forms such as the pygmy bark-cloth paintings in the book Heather brought to share with us. The Africans who came to America as slaves brought their joy in breaking a pattern and embracing happenstance, along with the designs and geometries familiar to them, and these mingled with Euro-American quilt traditions and probably (according to Eli Leon) influenced significantly the quilts American women made - perhaps more so than their quilts influenced those of the slaves.

The visual flights in so many of the Gee's Bend quilts are easily the equal of the most sophisticated color-field painting, with a power that comes not from training but from simply knowing. The designs stand alone. Still, the artists' lives and histories infuse the quilts with something extra, a sure and fiery human grace that cannot be separated from their making.

Which brings me to a reminder: Some of the quilts and their makers will be together at Greg Kucera this weekend. Go if you have the chance. 

Artist talk: Saturday, February 21 at noon
with Lousiana Bendolph, Revil Mosely, and Loretta Bennett

Loretta Bennett
Crazy Quilt, 2003
Quilted fabric
84 x 79 inches
At Greg Kucera Gallery 


  1. I was intriqued about the correlation between Jazz improvisation and the Gee's Bend Quiltmaker's improvisation, so I went out and bought the book, "Who'da Thought It" by Eli Leon. Very interesting, and it gave me a greater appreciation of the quilts and the way they are created. I wish I had read the book years ago, when the quilts had come to town the first time.
    I even went down to Greg Kucera's and looked at the exhibit again this week.
    I'm still not impressed with the quilts construction, but I can appreciate the way they are made and why of it.
    I really loved the prints and am very glad I saw them in person, I didn't realize how big they were. I love the way the prints interpret the cloth of the quilts. You can see the weave and little threads. Very nice prints! Now in them, I see an excellence of craft, too!

  2. Glad you bought the book and went to see the show, Terry. The prints are impressive, aren't they? It's fun to hear how your thoughts have evolved, especially with regard to music and improvisation. I've been thinking, too, about the issue of craft. One question that occurs to me is, is it possible to judge craft by standards that may be irrelevant to the artists producing the art? For instance, to a trained metal fabricator, the welds on the monumental sculptures of Alexander Calder are gloppy and unsightly and wouldn't pass muster beyond the grossest construction. Yet they are how he put his great abstract sculptures together. If we remove the level of craft intrinsic to a work, is something lost? Or is good craftsmanship a standard of it's own and not subjective? I haven't got to the bottom of this in my own mind yet. Thanks for provoking this level of thought with your viewpoint about craft!