I finally saw the Quilts from Gee’s Bend at the DeYoung yesterday. This brave exhibit flies like a proud flag the extraordinary human spirit that weaves beauty and usefulness and hope from the thin threads of poverty.
These quilts were painstakingly hand-pieced by three generations of Gee’s Bend women, made of scraps from worn-out clothing with bleached fertilizer sacks for backing & stuffed with pounded flint from processed cotton they picked during the day. Working late into the night, the women gathered to quilt and sing together for a few hours practical pleasure after the dinner meal was over and the dishes cleaned and put away.
In the film accompanying the exhibition I was struck by one of the younger women (67!) who was talking about her craft with the passion and devotion that marks her as an artist recognizable anywhere. She said she loved her quilts … that her favorite pleasure was to find and stitch in a swatch of fabric with color that "took your breath and made you feel amazed to look at it."
These quilts – and the women who made them – certainly had that effect on me.