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Crossing the River: The Quilts of Gee's Bend 

Modern Primitive Gallery
1393 North Highland Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 892-0556

 July 19 through August 17, 2003

The quilts of a group of black women in Gee's Bend, Alabama, have been receiving much recognition since the Houston Museum of Fine Arts featured them in a show in late 2002, followed by an exhibit at the Whitney in New York City. (See our review of the book about these remarkable quilts). Several more cities have signed on to display this major traveling exhibit, with our home town of Atlanta trailing the list, scheduled for late 2005. As we were contemplating whether to wait or to travel to one of the other venues, we received an e-mail from our friends at Intown Quilters inviting us to the opening of an alternate Gee's Bend exhibit at a small local gallery. We jumped at the chance, and spent a pleasant hour at the crowded reception with about a dozen of the quilts, plus at least one of the quilters.

These quilts ran the gamut of styles that are typical of the Gee's Bend "school." Mostly strip-quilted, they filled the room with their spontaneous wit and improvisational use of color and materials. Some were colorful, others nearly monochromatic, using materials ranging from denim (used workpants) to corduroy and satin. 

Of course we had to take photos, and although conditions weren't ideal, our digital camera captured some of the spirit of these remarkable works. We have put them together in a slide show displaying them, which you can access here.

The quilts speak for themselves, and we were not able to obtain all of the artist information under the circumstances. The one quilter we met at the show was Arlonzia Pettway, who poses with a friend in front of her contribution to the show in one of our photos. Born in 1923, Ms. Pettway is from one of the original families of Gee's Bend, named for the plantation master for whom her ancestors were slaves.

The exhibit opening was also an opportunity for another group of black artists to display their wares. About 170 of the "Lost Boys of the Sudan" have settled in Atlanta, and are selling their crafts (mostly ceramic renditions of African animals) at fairs and other events around the city. You will also see their work in our photo gallery.

If you're in the Atlanta area between now and August 17, don't miss this exhibit!

View the Slide Show

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