Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The ART of Gees Bend

Pettway/ Mark Rothco

Pettway/Frank Stella


Pettway/ Barnett Newman

There seems to be less than universal accolades for the phenomenon of the Gees Bend quilt/art. Well at least amongst art quilters I hear on various e-lists I am on. The most recent was to question whether the popularity and critical acclaim these artists have received may be just clever spin doctors and self serving curators trying to drum up business. I confess, I am puzzled that some fail to see the remarkable beauty and ART these works display. A lot of the nay sayers mention "poor workmanship and materials" as a reason to dismiss them. Others don't see how outsider ladies could be possibly be making art when all that they were doing was making warm bedding out of reclaimed garments. I was struck by the originality of the works when they first appeared at the Whitney in New York, and that was only from looking at the online pictures. When I actually saw the show in Orlando I felt MOVED by them...not just from the history of their makers but for the amazing instinctive beauty of the designs and use of the faded pentimento in the fabrics. I wish I had that seemingly ingrained intuitiveness as I design MY work. One of the artists when asked HOW she developed the design replied that she cut up the various colored shapes, moved them around on her bed until they "looked right".

Well isn't that what all artists do? At least those that pursue excellence and personal input in there work? I googled some well known modern artists such as Paul Klee, Mondrian and Rothco and was struck by the similarities of composition and expression to the Gees Bend work. I am convinced....these are ART!