I was at Scout the other day, and got to chatting with the gal behind the counter – I told her that I have been admiring the framed quilt on the wall. It’s a vintage quilt, she said, and it’s framed inside a big, old window. You know me – frame anything inside an old window and I’m sold. This quilt was unique – it wasn’t your usual pattern. It looked kind of random, as if a bunch of rectangular-ish scraps of fabric were sewn together in a hurry, without a thought to mainstream quilting patterns.
The gal – I really should just ask her name, since she’s seen me a few times this week (h) – suggested I check out the Gee’s Bend quilts (these photos are just a few), that they were similar in design. So I did. WOW. Read a brief history of this isolated rural hamlet here. These quilts are lovely, and reminded me of the kind of stuff I studied in a Women’s Art History course at UNO several years ago. The elevation of the domestic craft as high art. (This webpage, from Auburn University, is a fantastic resource.)
Not only do the Gee’s Bend quilts satifsy an aesthetic I love (vintage/kitschy/folksy/geometric), it also adds to my fascination of the deep South. Someday, I’ll tour the South and scratch that itch. So far on my list: Charleston, Savannah, Asheville, Chapel Hill, a bayou or two, Athens, New Orleans, rural West Virginia, Andalusia Farm, Eureka Springs, north Georgia, the Smoky Mountains, Appalachia…and now, Gee’s Bend. (any other places I should add?) Something about the rural South fascinates me. I’m taken by those places I’ve read about and need to touch with my own hands, smell with my own nose, see with my own eyes. Plantations, antebellum architecture, red dirt roads, hills, hollers – ghosts of a past still present. Romanticism sometimes at odds with, sometimes cooperating with, reality. Folk traditions, inglorious (and glorious) history, community kept alive in the midst of a poverty and a people I’ve never known…the Scots-Irish, the descendents of slaves, the Appalachians. They’re out there, somewhere. I want to find the places I read about in Wise Blood, Same Kind of Different As Me, and The Secret Life of Bees. Dixie has captured my imagination at the moment. Can’t shake it.