Well, I did it. I just booked a flight to Montgomery Alabama. From there I rent a car and drive to the Gee’s Bend Ferry, then onto Mary Ann Pettway’s house where I’ll be staying for 4 days in May.
For those of you who don’t know, the Gee’s Bend Quilts are the thing that got me making art again. I quit for a while after getting my MFA in sculpture. I was confused about what I wanted to do and disillusioned with the art world I knew. But a few years later, I saw a book with the Gee’s Bend Quilts and the women who made them. A small community, in an isolated part of Alabama, the women of Gee’s Bend have been making quilts for generations. Their unique style was made famous when art collector William Arnett saw them and put together an exhibit that traveled around the country. Seeing just the photos of the quilts (I have still never seen them in person) inspired me to make my own quilts. And that’s how I began doing what I do.
Last week, Bridgett (who bought my Zombie Hens wall hanging) sent me an email that there was a Gee’s Bend exhibit in Bridgeport Connecticut. Jon and I were driving home from New York City when I got another email from Bridgett saying that it was worth seeing, but there were only four quilts in the exhibit. I had been thinking about making a trip down to Gee’s Bend for a while, and as we talked about it, Jon got on his phone and found out that there was a quilting workshop in Gee’s Bend in April. Without a moment’s hesitation (that’s how Jon is, if it was me I’d still be thinking about it) he called the number and spoke to Mary Ann Pettway, one of the quilters and teachers.
It turns out that Mary Ann gives private lessons and I could stay at her house (there are no motels in Gee’s Bend) while I was taking lessons. Now this is even better than I imagined because it puts me right in the middle of things. Because I’m not just interested in learning about quilting I’m also interested in the woman who do the quilting and all the stories that go along with it.
I’ve never done anything like this before and it feels like an important thing for me to do. Like a pilgrimage to the people and place that inspired me to begin creating again. When I think of spending four days with someone I don’t know, I get a little jittery. But then I think of it as a journey to find a piece of myself. Because I know I share something with Mary Ann Pettway and the other quilters of Gee’s Bend. I can see it in their quilts.
Click here to see more about Gee’s Bend.