In episode 56 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews Loretta Pettway Bennett and Mary Margaret Pettway of the GEE'S BEND QUILTMAKERS!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
Located in a small, remote and rural community in Alabama, USA, officially known as Boykin, which is surrounded on three sides by river and has a population of around 700, the women of Gee’s Bend have been creating hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present day.
Electric, off-beat, full of flair, as well as both vivid and vibrant, for decades, the women of Gee’s Bend have adopted a wide range of material for their improvisatory, jazzy and geometric quilts. From denim to old patterned clothes, which they have referred to as, making something shine from something that has been thrown away.
Often quilting - and singing - in groups as they configure their stunning works, some of the women of Gee’s Bend are in the collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the contributions of African American artists from the Southern states, of which our guest and quilter extraordinaire, Mary Margaret Pettway is chair.
Although having been quilting for decades, with some claiming the tradition stemming from the 1800s, it has only been in recent years that the women have come to international renown and attention, exhibiting at major museums all over the world, from the Whitney Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, New York’s The Met, Margate’s Turner Contemporary, and now, their first ever solo exhibition in my hometown of London at Alison Jacques Gallery, which shows quilts spanning nearly 100 years.
I should add that our guests today are first cousins, who come from an important lineage of female quilters and are showing alongside three generations worth of ancestors.
Described by the New York Times as having created some of “the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced”, the women of Gee’s Bend are rightfully forcing us to readdress the art historical canon, and I couldn’t be more delighted to have them on the show today.
ENJOY!!! FURTHER LINKS!
The Gee's Bend website!
Their show at Alison Jacques Gallery (don't miss if you're in London!)
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Laura Hendry
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield