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Artistic Endeavors – Gee’s Bend’s Mary Lee Bendolph

The recent QuiltCon show had the fingerprints of Gee’s Bend quilters all over it. One of the more prominent of those quilters – Mary Lee Bendolph – is featured in a current (through May 27, 2018) exhibit at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. She was born in 1935, freely used whatever fabrics were at hand (jeans, suits, etc.) and is now involved in printmaking.

To quote from the exhibit website, “This exhibition, which is the first to examine works from five decades of Bendolph’s life, considers her quilts as objects with many meanings. At once functional necessities and aesthetic wonders, many of the quilts on view are also family documents and symbolic memorials.”

Here are a few of her quilts.

Husband Suit Clothes (Housetop Variation), 1990
mixed fabrics, including corduroy, cotton, denim, velveteen, and synthetic brocade
80 x 76 inches

Ghost Pockets, 2003
Mixed fabrics including denim, cotton, polyester, and synthetic wool
Overall: 72 in. x 85 in.

“In Ghost Pockets, Bendolph incorporates pieces of her husband’s jeans, complete with their faded patches, still-saturated seams, and the deep indigo “ghosts” of pockets that once held Rubin Sr.’s hands, his tools, and other personal items. She also uses strips of turquoise, pink, and creamy yellow cotton, taken from his pants and shirts.

Created more than a decade after Rubin Sr.’s death, this quilt represents Bendolph’s resistance to a Gee’s Bend tradition: that of burning the clothing of the deceased. Instead, Bendolph saved articles of Rubin Sr.’s clothing to make quilts. “That way,” she said, “you always be with me…you’re always covering me.” The back side of Ghost Pockets has a large strip of red flannel overlaying a multicolored, patterned piece, intentionally giving the illusion of a quilt on top of a quilt.”

Swarthmore College’s List Gallery is the exhibit’s next stop.

Just for comparison’s sake, you can check out the winners at the 2018 QuiltCon here.

 

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits, Modern Quilting