A new exhibition at the DePaul Art Museum opening April 10 will feature 23 quilts, some from the famed community of Gee's Bend, Ala.
African-American women in Gee's Bend, a tiny town 60 miles southwest of Montgomery, have made quilts for more than a century but their works weren't discovered by the outside art community until about 15 years ago.
The pieces became a sensation. A New York Times art critic has called them "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced." Some quilts now sell for more than $20,000.
“The exhibition makes a very strong argument that not all art comes in a gold frame and that some things that are made for a practical use can also be transcendently beautiful and filled with meaning,” Louise Lincoln, director of the museum at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus, said in a press release.
The exhibit, called "From Heart to Hand," was created by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama.
Quilting in Gee's Bend goes back to the early 1800s, when the town was part of a plantation.
"Influenced, perhaps, by the patterned textiles of Africa, the women slaves began piecing strips of cloth together to make bedcovers," Amei Wallach wrote in Smithsonian magazine.
"Throughout the post-bellum years of tenant farming and well into the 20th century, Gee’s Bend women made quilts to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones and electricity," Wallach wrote.
Along the way, said Wallach, "they developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity."
Lincoln said "the exhibition gives quilts and their makers the respect they deserve.”
Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections at the International Quilt Studies Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will give an introduction to the history of quilting in the South on April 12 at 2 p.m.
Celebrated quilter Yvonne Wells, will speak in connection with the exhibit on April 26 at 1 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
The exhibition will be featured at the DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton Ave., from April 10 though June 22.
For more information, call 773-325-7506 or visit www.depaul.edu/museum.