Conversations with Gee’s Bend

Artists Inspire Artists

“Conversations with Gee’s Bend” exhibits May 25th – Sept. 3, 2018 at San Juan Islands Museum of Art.  Fifteen years ago an astounding exhibit of quilts made by women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama toured the country.  Everywhere, people responded in awe to the quilts created by an isolated group of African-American women descended from West Africa slaves.  The rural Alabama community was left alone, geographically and from outside influences and judgement, to hand down their traditions, quilt by quilt, generation by generation.  The women were not considered artists, by society’s standards, their materials were often nothing more than worn out clothes.  The women of Gee’s Bend succeeded in creating masterpieces of art, telling their stories of great poverty, civil rights, and pride in their African Heritage.  Quilts made out of necessity and from nothing, became something enduring and beautiful.

Many of those in awe were working artists.  Our exhibit poses questions, how are contemporary artists in conversation with the Gee’s Bend quilts?  Exhibiting artists in this show work in conventional and unconventional materials.  One artist is a hurricane survivor who uses old building materials to create wooden textiles.  Another artist uses her brother’s clothes who died, to create a textile full of grief and healing.   Using electric filaments into fabric to create an electronic light animation into her work is another example of an artist’s expression.  Our contemporary artists work across a variety of media, some traditional, some unconventional.  What they all have in common is a particular aesthetic, a direct response to the quilts, where artists inspire artists.  The women of Gee’s Bend have inspired artists across the country to speak through their work, a visual dialog, a Conversation with Gee’s Bend.