Thursday, September 25, 2008

Exhibit at PMA celebrates the art of quilt making

Mainly Art
By Marie Fowler
never in a million years dreamed that one of my quilts would be hanging on a museum wall," marvels China Pettway.Generation to generation, like recipes for collard greens and cornbread, the quilting tradition passed down among the womenfolk of Gee's Bend, Ala. The rural community of well under 1,000 people was, and is, poor in material things, but rich in spirit.
Gee's Bend, The Architecture of the Quilt, together with its corollary exhibition, Linda Day Clark: The Gee's Bend Photographs, is as much a sensory cultural experience as an art exhibition. Both are on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through Dec. 14.
The older ladies remember growing up in a time when they couldn't drink at just any water fountain or get served at just any lunch counter. "But I forgive," confides Pettway. "The trials and tribulations of our lives made us strong."
Quilts were utilitarian, made to keep their children warm, crafted from worn-out clothes and fabric scraps - and every scrap has a story. There are pieces from flour sacks and bits of old denim that are not as faded where the back pockets have been. The quilt made from basketball jerseys was surely prized by a fortunate child.

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