History or bedspread?
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend were never intended to be art; quilts are utilitarian items, based on patterns passed from mother to daughter. Courthouse Steps, Log Cabin and strip-piecing styles appear over and over, always with a twist. Instead of exactly replicating the pattern, Gee’s Bend quilters take the traditional form and riff on it, change it, spin in with their signature style. This improvisational work is what makes the Quilts of Gee’s Bend so special, so inspiring, so uniquely American.
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, named for the isolated pocket of rural Alabama where the residents live, were discovered in 1998 by art collector William Arnett. The quilts have gone on to tour art museums nationwide; reproduction quilts sell at Anthropologie and are copied by trendsetters like Denyse Schmidt. This publicity helps the quilters sell their work, and creates an industry where before there was none.
The quilts of the collection have been praised by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.” Their work continues to blur the line between craft and art.
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend in Context at Auburn University