History Refused to Die-Alabama's African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context

March 14 - May 31, 2015



 

Extended object labels from the exhibition

 

Louisiana Bendolph (American, born 1960)
Doorway to a Dream, 2013
Color aquatint, spit-bite aquatint, and soft-ground etching
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Most of my quilts are really based on the Housetop design. But once I start working on them, they get "un-Housetop." ... I never really thought about Housetops as my favorite, but they always start out that way. There are lots of ways to make a Housetop -- they look simple until you start working with them."
-- Louisiana Bendolph
 
This print is one of an edition of etchings made by the artist, with her quilt designs as source, at Paulson Bott Press in Berkeley, California.
 
 
 
Mozell Benson (American, 1934-2012)
Black and White, 1997
Cotton
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Mozell Benson (American, 1934-2012)
Lily Pads, 1997
Cotton
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Black families inherited this tradition. We forget where it came from because nobody continues to teach us. I think we hold to that even though we're not aware of it...I always felt that if I got so I couldn't use part of my body, as long as I had eyes to see and hands I could still find something to do... When I can't do anything else but just sit around, I'll get back to those little itty bitty pieces."
-- Mozell Benson
 
Benson began making traditional patchwork quilts when she married in 1952. Born and raised in Opelika, in Lee County, after her second husband's death in 1968, she worked driving a school bus for twenty-five years to support her ten children, but she continued making quilts, using donated materials or cast-off clothing as resources. Many of Benson's quilts are rooted in the African American "strip-quilt" tradition, although her bands of fabric are often wider and delineate stronger differences in color and design. She usually began with a basic design concept (she felt that the larger strips were a time-saving device), but then improvised as she worked to create original variations. Her quilts often have the appearance of depth and optical movement and demonstrate a technique that she thought might have African origins. Mozell Benson was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001, and her works are held in numerous collections, including that of the MMFA.
 
 
 
Arthur Dial (American, born 1930)
George Wallace and His Men Standing in the Schoolhouse Door, 1988
Burlap, cardboard, Bondo, plastic, window blinds, industrial sealing compound and enamel on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"You see my art, you kind of know what's on my mind. Governor Wallace was trying to block the blacks from going to the college over there. He say, ''Ain't no blacks going to go there.' Wallace say, 'You go grow your garden. We grow our garden. We both going to have beautiful gardens.' That was his way of doing that 'separate but equal' thing with the schools. But when the federal troops got there he stepped aside. He knowed he had to move. Whites got mad at him but he understood the law and got out of the doorway."
-- Arthur Dial
 
 
 
Arthur Dial (American, born 1930)
Welfare Office, 1988
Plastic, enamel and industrial sealing compound on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Thornton Dial, Jr. (American, born 1953)
Balls Together: The Friendship of Men, 1989
Wood, carpet, industrial sealing compound, enamel
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Part chair, part sculpture, and part Christmas lawn art, [Balls Together] is something of a self-portrait for the younger Dial, whose nickname is "Little Buck." The heads of three male deer -- or "bucks" -- grace the chair, two on the back posts and one on the arm. Each head is independent; each might stand alone. But in this work the three heads play off and support each other, resulting in a presentation more powerful than any single image. As the eldest son and namesake of the artist Thornton Dial Sr., known as "Buck," and the father of Thornton Dial III, a talented artist himself, Dial Jr. is clearly part of the triumvirate depicted here, which can be seen as his tribute to father­son relationships."
-- Didi Barrett
 
 
 
Thornton Dial, Jr. (American, born 1953)
The Gorilla Lends a Helping Hand to the United States and the Telephone Company, 1988
Wood, enamel, carpet, telephone wire, mop, industrial sealing compound, on plywood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Thornton Dial, Jr. (American, born 1953)
Rainbow to Freedom, 1988
Burlap, enamel, industrial sealing compound, on incised wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Thornton Dial, Jr. (American, born 1953)
Three Lions (Honoring Dr. King and the Kennedys), 1991
Corrugated tin, woven rope, pebbles, industrial sealing compound, enamel, on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
In his works Thornton Dial, Jr. uses the lion in the jungle as a metaphor for the Black male in American society, equating a lack of opportunity with the challenges and limitations of jungle living, along with the strength and ability to survive in a harsh environment.
 
 
 
Richard Dial (American, born 1955)
Music Then, 2006
Welded steel, wire, denim, and paint
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Richard Dial (American, born 1955)
Royalty, 2007
Welded steel and cloth
Collection of William Arnett
 
Richard Dial began a business making outdoor furniture, and adapted the concepts of metal seating in creating sculptural forms. In this piece, the chair is "a seat of power" enthroned and associated with ownership. The idea of ownership and control over one's destiny has proven a key element for African-American artists who identify this autonomy as a goal of the Civil Rights Movement.
 

Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
Construction of the Victory, 1997
Artificial flowers and plants, crutches, fabric, clothing, rope carpet, wood, window screen, found metal, wire, oil, enamel, spray paint, and Splash Zone compound on canvas on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Sacrifice, resurrection, and triumph over adversity are the major subjects of Construction of the Victory. Made shortly after Thornton Dial's recovery from a serious illness, these Christian themes offer a more unconventional vision of death and the afterlife. Here, the protagonist is a symbolic everyman shown partially ascended into heaven. Strands of carpet rope, stretched across the scene, allude to the web of life, while the overall red color references the veil of blood that separates this world from the next. Now freed of earthly hardships, the figure has thrown down two crutches that symbolize the struggle to survive life's obstacles. As they fall, the crutches form a giant "V" for victory, the victory over life's vicissitudes finally guaranteed by death, and perhaps the even greater victory over death that is offered by the realm of the spirit. Dial captures the travails of human experience and its quest for transcendence."
--Joanne Cubbs
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
Freedom Highway, 2004
Tires, steel, barbed wire, corrugated tin, auto body parts, clothing, wire, enamel, and Splash Zone compound
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
Freedom Marchers, 1987
Wire, steel, tape, wire screen, packing foam, concrete, enamel, and Splash Zone compound
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
History Lesson Survivors (1), 2007
Wood, corrugated tin, cloth, and enamel on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
History Lesson Survivors (2), 2007
Wood, corrugated tin, cloth, and enamel on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Thornton Dial's History Lesson Survivors (1) depicts the era before the Civil Rights Movement: the sticks are dead branches stretching upward out of a shackle of bent and rusted steel. The more elaborate part (2) of this diptych represents the period after Civil Rights. Here, the sticks, though still dead, have sprouted branches and their metal entrapment seems to be shedding and breaking apart. In their similarity and sequential titling, Dial suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same for African Americans."
--Laura Bickford
 
Dial's constructions are fusions of concepts and emotions. History Lesson Survivors (1 and 2) are haunted by the relationship between cultural history and our memories. They convey the complexity that characterizes our remembered, personal experiences as they relate to the institutional, social history that forms the context for our understanding of the world we live in now.
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
The Last Day of Martin Luther King, 1992
Wood, carpet, rope carpet, wire screen, metal pans, broken glass, broom
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"In his earliest paintings and sculptures, Thornton Dial expressed the theme of continuous struggle through the iconic image of the tiger. In the most epic of the artist's renderings, the character additionally assumes the guise of one of America's great social heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr. ... Using the story of Christ's Last Supper and Crucifixion as a metaphor for King's impending murder, Dial conflated sacred and secular events. Within the composition, a table setting of real pots and pans signifies the biblical meal, and a representation of Jesus comforts a likeness of King's widow. The central black and white figure of the tiger, King himself, is made of twisted mop strings. This material, along with a nearby depiction of King's mother formed from a broom head references the menial labor to which black people have been subjected since slavery."
-- Joanne Cubbs
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
The Weeping Tree, 2012
Wood, metal, clothing, springs, string, wire, plastic, and enamel on canvas on wood
Collection of William Arnett
 
"The art of Thornton Dial stems from African-American vernacular culture in which oral traditions, folklore, art, rituals, and religions play a major role. In Africans' representation of their memory and heritage, some trees carry inestimable spiritual and cultural value: the Boabab tree in the West African countries of Senegal, Mali, and Guinea or the willow tree in South Africa are fine examples. In Ancient Egypt, the Book of the Dead referenced the tree as a symbol for life. Elsewhere, trees are considered vessels for spiritual connection with the ancestral world, learning, growing, story-telling, oath-taking, and conflict resolution, among other roles. Like art, religion, and rituals in many traditional African societies, the symbolism of trees resides at the heart of one's life.
 
A weeping willow once grew in Dial's yard in the Pipe Shop neighborhood in Bessemer, Alabama. Dial understood its metaphorical significance, and uses it to represent the first phase of the triptych: "slavery time." In the panel, the representation of a desolate tree rising up from the earth serves as the central focal point, allowing Dial to reference the cultural uprooting and genocide generated by the capture, deportation, and enslavement of millions of Africans during the Middle Passage. Similarly, African writers such as Leopold Sedar Senghor in his poetry book Ethiopiques, and Ngugi Wa Thiongo in his novel Weep Not Child used the image of a dead tree in reference to the uprooting of their ancestral culture and knowledge: no foliage, no future, and no legacy. This panel also conveys the phonological ambiguity and malaise stemming from the similarities between "weeping tree" and "whipping tree." Both are striking images and allude to a triple loss of cultures, selves, and ultimately of lives."
-- Diala Toure
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
After the Burn, 2011
Fabric, metal, wood, clothing, and enamel on canvas on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Can a tortured, scattered, and distressed tree survive against all odds? This question is the central theme posed in the second panel of Dial's triptych. Can tortured, scattered and diasporic, culturally ostracized lives survive and recreate themselves with new identities in a New World? Can one make a path out of no path? Can seeds of hope, life, and love be planted on a barren and hostile soil? Can a dead tree take root, grow, and bear fruits? In many African myths of origin, a planted seed could give life to a miracle-performing tree. Using the example of this tree from the Mande myths of origin in his novel Kaidara, author Hampate Ba masterfully echoes this sentiment, revealing that as sources of everlasting life and growth, some trees could perform miracles. Dial's composition answers these questions affirmatively. In his reference to the burn, Dial also alludes to the agricultural technique known as "slash-and-burn," in which the vegetation left after the harvest is burned to prepare the land for subsequent growth. The included shoes are climbing, the struggle for freedom is ongoing. There can be a path out of no path. A rebirth is viable after the burn."
-- Diala Toure
 
 
 
Thornton Dial (American, born 1928)
The Freedom Side, 2012
Wood, metal, clothing, springs, string, wire, plastic, and enamel on canvas on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"In his final act, Dial depicts an imposing tree with abundant foliage nearly bursting out of the composition. His refined choice of colors, with a dominant blue tone, reinforces the concepts of survival, hope, identity-building, and the celebration of survival and ancestral memories. The faded red and dirty white, compose, symbolically, the colors of the flag, indicating that freedom approaches, the fence of exclusion is broken. Black Southern culture provides undeniable evidence that, for African Americans, strong cultural and visual ties with the African motherland bind. With centuries of dehumanization, acculturation, intimidation, repression, domination, and subjugation, freedom and equality still remain elusive for many people of African descent in this country. A tree may be down but for those who understand and value their cultures of origin, Dial's statement is forceful: a tree with strong roots will never die. A tree with strong roots could never die." Diala Toure
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Carrying the Lighter Child, 1986
Enamel on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Carrying the Lighter Child was painted on a closet door from my grandpappy's house; it reflects the laboring through the different civilizations of history. Some people couldn't do it themselves, the lighter children who needed help to make it through the different climates. Some people didn't have the strength."
-- Lonnie Holley
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Changing My Walk (Honoring Andrew Young), 2003
Chair and leather shoes
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Two shoes in a chair, honoring Andrew Young. Two shoes, two different races that have to learn to step together. Andrew Young worked so hard to get the races to work side by side. The chair represents comfort brought by the hard work of people like Andrew Young."
-- Lonnie Holley
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Climbing for Power, 1996
Found wood and found metal
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Climbing for Power is made out of materials from our efforts to construct our civilization, to build cities, to fight wars. It balances on a board. What we do has to have balance. The conditions to get us from the past to now, to get the cities built, to get our ship to go from one coast to another, we had to suffer but we did it and we got there."
-- Lonnie Holley
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Like a Slave Ship, 2008
Metal, wood, barbed wire, and springs
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Siphoning from the Root, 1997
Found roots, cloth, and metal
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950)
Stepping for You: The Walker (Honoring John Lewis), 2004
Wood, metal, leather shoes
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Stepping for You honors John Lewis, and honors the ways of civil rights efforts with shoes symbolizing human abuse. Leather shoes that got wet and tighten up put blisters on your feet. You can imagine walking from Selma to Montgomery. The ceiling tin represents the city where John Lewis and others did their sit-ins. To avoid eye contact you looked at the ceiling or the windows."
-- Lonnie Holley
 
Holley incorporates shoes into his assemblages to honor prominent members of the Civil Rights Movement such as now Senator John Lewis who participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. On Bloody Sunday, Lewis was severely injured on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Holly incorporates shoes to reference both the March, and the violence it engendered. "Blood on the soles of feet, between the toes, seeping into the insole, ruining shoes bought with hard-earned money -- that was the collective suffering that knew no differentiation between male and female. As Holley stated, it was 'like running on glass.'"
 
 
 
Ronald Lockett (American, 1965-1998)
The Hunting Ground, 1994
Cut and found tin, colored pencil, and nails on wood
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Ronald Lockett often employed wolves as representations for African Americans and sometimes as self-referential allegories. In this piece, Lockett's wolf figures almost blend into the background and are made of strips of rusty metal, making the outlines of the animal life look like parts of the 'canvas' have imploded in long rectangular pieces and magically assembled into recognizable form. The artist's hand roughly stitches them back together in a collage. In the piece, depicting a pair of wolves, the rusty background is broken by thick black stripes helping to form a flag-like pattern. A patch of black, reminiscent of mud-cloth, dotted with an indiscernible pattern, stands in for where the stars of our United States should comfortably sit. Liberty and justice for all, except perhaps for the animal figures superimposed upon the muddied and rusty flag, their outlines drawn in matte white -- the rough cut of a crime scene's human remains."
-- Sharon P. Holland
 
 
 
Ronald Lockett (American, 1965-1998)
Untitled, 1989
Wood, cloth, tin, industrial sealing compound, oil and enamel on wood
Collection of William Arnett
 
"The trapped stag stares out at the viewer, both demanding an acknowledgment of its precarious position and daring the observer to step in and help. A common allegory for the condition of Black men in the United States, Ronald Lockett's conflation of the fate of nature and the history of African Americans demonstrates his ability to 'name,' or call out the individual human responses to large-scale tragedies. Connected to the stag by a long branch, the framed skeletal figure surrounded by blackness suggests the restorative potential of nonlife. The idea of a chance to escape in the afterlife populates many of Lockett's works, and a redemptive second chance must have been a powerful and appealing subject to the HIV-positive young artist."
-- Laura Bickford
 
 
 
Ronald Lockett (American, 1965-1998)
Untitled (Loons), ca. 1988-89
Paint on wood
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Charlie Lucas (American, born 1951)
Coming Out of the Forest, 1987
Paint on Masonite
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Charlie Lucas (American, born 1951)
Power Man, 1985
Welded found materials
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
Lucas speaks about the sources for his art, the wellspring that was his family and his rural culture: "They (his forebears) were wonderful. You should have seen them. They were basket weavers; they made chains; they made jewelry; they fixed wagon wheels; they fixed guns. My great grandfather did metal sculpture with leftover stuff that he had; he melted it, reshaped it, and beat it out. Then on my father's side, my grandmother made quilts. ... They had to do something to make themselves stronger. There was always a name behind my people. A lot of roots were planted. It was much deeper than people can imagine."
 
 
 
Charlie Lucas (American, born 1951)
Three-Way Bicycle, ca. 1985
Welded found materials
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
Charlie Lucas is sometimes known as "Tin Man," which is another way of characterizing him by the cast-off metals that he uses in making sculpture that he refers to as "toys." That reference relates to his childhood, when he constructed "toys" for himself and other children to play with. Lucas' chief inspiration is and has been his own imagination. "They didn't know what to do with me when I was a kid... I made a spaceship and spun my sister in it...." In adulthood, Lucas retained his passion for making things from cast-offs -- "You can call it junk, but when the pieces are reborn again, it gives everything a new spirit."
 
Lucas' sculpture, Three-Way Bicycle is an homage to free will and choice: "When I come to a crossroads I got three choices about which way to go. I think a lot on it, cause if I make the wrong one, I can't go back."
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
'63 Foot Soldiers, 1999
License plates, shoes, found toys, metal grate, paint, plastic, and clothes
Collection of William Arnett
 
"Non-violence. Turn the other cheek. Then there came the fire hoses and the police dogs and the pistols. But where can we go and what can we do?" -- Joe Minter
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
Children in Jail, 2013
Paint, wood, found metal, deadbolts, dolls, rope, handcuffs, and chains
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
Children in Jail, 2013
Paint, wood, found metal, deadbolts, dolls, rope, chair, handcuffs, and chains
Collection of William Arnett
 
"And a child to lead them. I want to be free. Out of the mouths of babes the words came. So many children acted on those words, and there was an overflow. All the jails were filled. The park was filled up. The only place not filled up was the fairgrounds' animal cages. Bull Connor didn't know what to do, so he put thousands of school children in the jails and the overflow ended up in the cages."
-- Joe Minter
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
Freedom and Captivity, 2009
Handcuffs, found steel, metal eagle, birdcage, padlock and chains
Collection of William Arnett
 
"What is freedom? What is captivity? Two opposites. To know what freedom is, is to be free. To know freedom is to know, understand, and feel the air. Man has always wanted to look to the air but he could not fly. For two centuries man has killed himself trying to fly. And he did it, so what is freedom, and what is captivity?"
-- Joe Minter
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
The History of the Wheel: From Iron to Rubber, 1999
Rubber tire, metal tire rim, found machine parts, and chains
Collection of William Arnett
 
"How can I lighten a load and what can I use? The invention of the wheel showed us how to lift, how to take the tension off a hundred-pound man and teach him how to avoid the overload. Using the pulley and a piece of rope the man can take the load. Man had the power of the mind to levitate, but he lost that power, and had to develop the technical ability to lift things heavier than he is." ?Joe Minter
 
Minter creates a classically formal sculptural composition by repeating the simple circles that are metaphors for the wheel. The wheel itself is a utilitarian tool, critical to transportation, manufacturing, and other endeavors for centuries. It is a labor saving device, and the found objects here reference the labor of Black people in Alabama from the time of slavery until the era of manufacture. In his works and his built environments, Minter incorporates tools rendered useless by obsolescence, changing industrial technologies, and agricultural change.
 
 
 
Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
The Hurdler, 1996
Wood, metal and chrome-plated metal, car parts
Collection of William Arnett
 
"That is the meaning of life, to jump a hurdle and don't make the mistake of looking back. Each hurdle is an obstacle of life, and each time you go over one, say, 'I got that one,' and go on to the next one."
-- Joe Minter
 
 
 
Lola Pettway (American, born 1941)
Housetop Variation, 1970s
Corduroy
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"In 1965, an Episcopal priest, Father Francis X. Walter, had been assigned to the Black Belt area to document civil rights abuses, and was impressed by some quilts he saw hanging on a line, across the river from Gee's Bend. With Walter's help, a quilt making cooperative was soon operational, garnering publicity from the New York Times and fashion magazines, sending local quilts to faraway customers who ordered by mail. In 1972, the Bee secured a contract with Sears and Roebuck to produce corduroy pillow covers. Despite the standardized and repetitive process involved in producing the pillow covers, the availability of corduroy, a fabric seldom used before by the Gee's Bend quilt makers, stimulated a profound creative response. Leftover lengths and scraps of corduroy were taken home by workers at the Bee and transformed into vibrant works of art."
-- William S. Arnett
 


Lucy T. Pettway (American, 1921-2004)
Pinwheel (Sixteen­Block Variation), ca. 1975
Corduroy
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"I was a farmer. I'm the fourth of fourteen children of Mary Ann and Tom O. Pettway. We farmed cotton, corn, peanuts, sugarcane, peas, millet -- called it sorghum in them days.  I plowed mules and steers... Most of the time girls wasn't let to plow.... I started piecing quilts when I was probably about twelve. I loved to sew. I watched my mama, and got me some cloth and went to piecing...The first quilt I ever made was a 'Lazy Gal...' I was thirteen." -- Lucy T. Pettway
 
Lucy Pettway was a member of the family best known for quilting in Gees Bend during the period of the Freedom Quilting Bee. She was trained by her mother and other relatives from an early age, and quilted for seven decades. The corduroy fabric used in this quilt became a staple for the quilters when, in 1972, the Bee secured a contract with Sears and Roebuck to produce corduroy pillow covers. Left-over lengths and scraps of corduroy were taken home by quilters like Lucy Pettway and transformed into vibrant works of art.

 

Jimmy Lee Sudduth (American, 1910-2007)
Atlanta, 1988
Mud, paint, white pigment on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Jimmy Lee Sudduth (American, 1910-2007)
Washington Monument, 1988
Mud, paint, grass stain on wood
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Mose Tolliver (American, ca. 1921-2006)
Untitled (Painted Suitcase), 1986
House paint on suitcase
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Mose Tolliver (American, ca. 1921-2006)
Rainy Sunshine, Cats and Dog, Drum Beater, 1987
House paint on wood panel
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
 
 
Mose Tolliver (American, ca. 1921-2006)
Untitled (Trolley Bus), 1987
Varnished house paint on wood panel
Collection of William Arnett
 
 
 
Irene Williams (American, born 1920)
Strips, ca. 1960s
Polyester knit basketball jerseys, satin, corduroy
William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
 
"Irene Williams's quilts -- fashioned from surplus remnants generated in the clothing factories where many of her neighbors labored -- evoke inventiveness rooted in an industrial landscape. Holding a just-finished quilt top in her lap one warm afternoon, she described how the work she had just finished 'remembered' the quilt she had completed before. She went on, explaining how the quilt in her lap remembered all the quilts she had ever made and in turn those quilts recalled all the quilts made by all the women in her family and how those quilts connected with all the quilts ever made in her community. By extension, we can imagine that the quilts Irene Williams made, as well as all of those created by generations of family and neighbors throughout her community, remembered the worlds of agricultural and industrial work reflected in their materials (work-clothes, factory scrap and rejects, raw cotton) and their making in the hours after work and the quiet moments of the farming year. "
-- Bernard L. Herman
 
"This quilt reveals her sense of humor?used basketball jerseys are deconstructed to form a bedcover that reads like a street map, with small 'houses' identified by numbers along either side of a "main road" running down the center."
-- Dilys Blum



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