Uninhibited by the norms of fine or folk art, the Bend quiltmakers have been guided by a faith in personal vision; most of them start with basic forms and head off "their way" with unexpected patterns, unusual colors, and surprising rhythms.
The quiltmakers of Gee's Bend and Rehoboth tell similar stories when describing their separate styles; taken together, the women's insistence on developing a unique artistic voice becomes a statement about their community's tradition.
By making what they want to make, these women reveal innovative ways of looking at fabric, design, and format and have produced work that is utterly original and ranks with the finest abstract art in any tradition.
Along County Road 29, many women refer to any quilt dominated by concentric squares as a "Housetop," which reigns as the area's most favored "pattern." Its all-around simplicity hosts many experiments in formal reduction and, at the same time, offers a compositional flexibility unchallenged by other multipiece patterns.
The seven hundred or so inhabitants of this small, rural community are mostly descendants of slaves, and for generations they worked the fields belonging to the local Pettway plantation.
Conceived broadly, the "Housetop" is an attitude, an approach toward form and construction.
The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present.
Resembling an inland island, Gee’s Bend is surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River.
Wallpaper is made in long rolls, which are hung vertically on a wall.
Patterned wallpapers are designed so that the pattern "repeats", and thus pieces cut from the same roll can be hung next to each other so as to continue the pattern without it being easy to see where the join between two pieces occurs.