The Quilts of Gee’s Bend are quilts created by a group of women and their ancestors who live or have lived in the isolated African-American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama along the Alabama River. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend are considered to be unique, and one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States.
The Gee’s Bends women made the quilts from whatever scraps of material they could get hold of. They began during slave times, making quilts as way to keep warm as they did not have heating in their shacks and of course could not buy material.
What I am most interested in with the quilts is the improvisational method they employed to put them together. Their making do with what they could find meant that patterns of any kind were not going work as they would never know if they would have enough material to make a pattern work. This intuitive practice is one I can relate to as is the making do with what I have. I will purchase from op shops/ two dollar shops and for basic construction materials I can rack up products on my partners building account. However as soon as I have it in my studio, there is definitely as ‘make do’ attitude that occurs and it is a restriction I enjoy. What bits can go with what, interchanging items, adding building materials, taking it away etc all in a very hands on intuitive way. I watched a doc of the Gee’s Bends women working in a similar way, cutting out material placing it here, taking it away etc until that moment where it felt right.
The feeling right moment – this is quite difficult to describe and maybe not something that someone working with a complete plan may experience as their project is right when the plan is finished. When making members of the tribe, there is a knowing when one has fully emerged. They would have been at least 20 other arrangements before the knowing happens. I often love a work but have to dismantle it as the knowing feeling is not present. I am wondering if this is similar to what Judy Millar was describing when she said she threw any art she created and she loved out . That statement puzzled me when she said it during her studio visit and after discussing it with other students we wondered if she meant that if she loved it she had lost her critical edge with that work. I think this may still be the case . I also have the feeling when a work is done that it is no longer part of me, sometimes it is as if I don’t even recognise the work. I felt this acutely when Terry was selected for the Wallace Awards, it truly felt like Terry achieved this and I was so happy for him – Glen pointed out that it was I who created him but it really feels like Terry emerged from me – it is like trying to take credit for your child’s achievements. However like a child, I am pushing him out into the world to go and do his thing asap to give me the freedom to create more.
So where do these members of y tribe come from – what is at happening when I create – what am I delving into – collective unconscious? This is an ongoing question for me, not one that I dwell over too much but one I like to play around with every now and again….will post more about this soon.