Gees Bend Quilts

When the quilts of Gees Bend exploded onto the artistic consciousness of the nation, a raging debate broke out in my quilt guild. Was this really art? Why do we have to have a white man tell us it’s art? Why did they pick something with such poor workmanship?

Whatever the answer to those questions, it appears the quilts are here to stay. They have become a licensing, mass marketing extravaganza with rugs and other household items utilizing the designs. The quilts will be in my city Atlanta, March, 2006 at the High Museum of Art no less. Who would have thought that some quilts some black women made could be exhibited in the same building as the great masters. That’s a good thing.

For me, the quilts opened my eyes to a different way to look at my grandmother’s quilts. Did she know she was creating works of art? Of course not! Her quilts were designed to keep us warm in the winter. Without the influence of the quilts of Gees Bend, maybe I would not have seen the value of preserving Clara’s quilts for her great-grandchildren and their children.

With 50 years of hindsight, old things become new. Ordinary things become art.

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