Saturday, September 5, 2009

Going to Gee's Bend

Well, I didn't physically go to Gee's Bend.........only in my imagination, inspired by an exhibit of some Gee's Bend quilts and by the two ladies who came to Lexington with the exhibit. Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway held the crowd at the Carnegie Center in thrall last evening with their stories and especially their songs. What a gift these women have! To just stand up in front of strangers and sing, loud and clear and beautifully of their faith and their lives. I can't imagine, ever in my lifetime, of being brave enough to do that! And then there were the quilts. Some of them were very much like abstract art and I'll confess right here to liking them much, much more than any abstract art I've ever seen. I know the need for their quilts originated in the grinding poverty Gee's Bend experienced during it's history. The women who made these quilts deserve all the more praise for being able to produce something so joyful to warm their families, in spite of their circumstances.

Please believe me that I am not, in any way, trying to romanticise how difficult life must have been for these women. I come from very humble ancestors. My maternal grandmother raised six children and lived her whole life without ever having an indoor bathroom. I know from hearing her stories that every day was hard work from sun-up til sun-down. I'm just saying, I admire the spirit of these women. And it makes me feel ashamed of all the times I have whined and complained about doing the laundry, running the vacuum, having to put the dishes in the dishwasher, for goodness sake.


  1. I felt the same combination of inspiration and shame when I saw the exhibit a few years ago. The biggest impact on me was realizing that it is their imperfections that made the quilts beautiful and interesting. I believe that is true of life in general.

  2. I saw the Gees Bend exhibit at the Speed Museum in Louisville, and would have LOVED to have gone to this one, thanks for sharing. I've recently been eyeing old clothes and jeans with the thought of cutting them up for quilts, haven't done it yet but maybe in time.