Speaking at artist lecture on Saturday at the gallery was Essie Pettway, Mary Lee Bendolph & Annie Mae Young-who are 3 of some of the remaining original Gee's Bend quilters. It was an emotional event for me and almost hard to go,which I know may sound odd, but I was so afraid of the experience not living up to my hopes (sort of like when you see your favorite band live for the first time and the belligerent drunk guy next to you barfs on you.) well, I'm happy to report the crowd at this show was not that rowdy, no barfing-but there were a lot of people and it was nearly impossible for me to see the amazing women.
fortunately, my dear friend and craft partner in crime, Erin, was there (without her phone call I would have missed the whole thing!) and weaseled into the crowd and got a full view and gave me the report. The quilters had a rep speaking for them most of the time, and he took up the first 30 min or so. . and what was a bit annoying was that he answered some of the questions for the quilters, instead of letting them answer directly.
also-Erin and I (she was able to stay much longer than I) wondered about the whole artist rep thing for outsider art. On one hand it's such a great opportunity for the artists to get recognition and monetary compensation, and yet at times it feels icky and exploitive.
However, it's not like this is new commercial success for these quilters-some quilts of these women are mass produced at anthropologie (which are now on sale, I might add) And I have this beautiful book of theirs as well-but I do think the whole issue is complicated and ultimately rests on the integrity of the rep and people marketing the artists. But, the bottom line for me is, thank god someone discovered these women and brought their amazing art into the limelight so we all can experience it.
here is my favorite in the show. These quilts I'm showing here are all the ones in the gallery in Portland. I'm going to go back and look again when I can spend some time. My understanding is that some of these are old and some are quite recent. The Gee's Bend quilters are still working and selling, which I didn't know.
so, I was bummed to not have had a better view-but thank god, grammie tivo'd the PBS special that is really in depth and doesn't have a rep butting in. . .still, an amazing experience and I think everyone in Portland should run down and see the show.