Paulson Press: Etchings by Gee’s Bend Quilters
January 13 - February 25, 2007
Curated by Lucy Van Sands Seeburg
The quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama moved from grinding poverty and obscurity to international acclaim through the extraordinary quilts they made from scraps of worn out clothing to keep their families warm. These quilts have been praised for their raw beauty, bold geometry and sophisticated color sense. The New York Times called them “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”
Gee’s Bend is an isolated and poor rural community where African-American families live and work land that their ancestors worked as slaves. Over generations, an aesthetic lineage that nurtured originality developed as the women interpreted their visual environment-the horizontal stripes formed by stacked log walls, newspapers used as wallpaper, furrowed fields–into innovative abstract designs. They quilted together as part of a rich spiritual life of singing and praying while they sewed.
When the quilts were brought before the art world by Matt Arnett and the Tinwood Alliance, they were instantly recognized as extraordinary. The Gee’s Bend quilters have now seen their work exhibited in major American museums, featured on United States postage stamps and celebrated in the national media. Nonetheless, these woman had never had the experience of setting out to create fine art until two of them were invited to work with Paulson Press in Berkeley, California. Paulson Press is renowned for helping artists bring their creative ideas to fruition in the form of limited edition etchings. The master printers and quilters worked together to translate the visual language of quilting into fine art prints. The quilters had the experience of being nurtured through the exploration of creating in a new medium. Paulson Press experienced the depth
of spirit in these remarkable women.
The tradition and exploration of quilt making has been one of my interests for many years. Paulson Press publisher, Renee Bott, was a colleague of mine when we both worked for Crown Point Press in the 1980’s and I was enthralled by these prints when I first received the press release for them. As the new Director of the Bolinas Museum
I talked to our curatorial committee and we all agreed that this dynamic exhibition of etchings by Gee’s Bend quilters and their powerful background story would be exciting to share with our visitors. In 2006, the De Young Museum was the final stop for the Gee’s Bend quilt exhibition that has been touring the country for the past several years and these prints were on view at the De Young during that time. The Bolinas Museum thanks the De Young Museum and Paulson Press for their cooperation in bringing this exhibition of etchings to Bolinas.
Lucy Van Sands Seeburg
Exhibition Curator and Executive Director