The Architecture Of The Quilt
A few days ago I was at the home of a friend who is an art consultant and curator, so her walls are a mosaic of beautiful paintings arcing from representational to surreal and abstract.
This morning I woke to the image of her home, filled with all that creative energy and it made me think how art transcends.
Next spring I'll be taking an 8-day intensive studies seminar in Taos, NM (magical, I hear). One of the early assignments is to look at art and begin cataloging what I like and don't like.
This has heightened my awareness of the art around me and one category that inspires me is quilts, especially the Quilts of Gee's Bend.
Gee's Bend, is an isolated area in Alabama, once a cotton plantation, owned by Joseph Gee, where slaves lived and their descendents still live today. Reading about the Quilts of Gees Bend (there are several beautiful books on the subject) I learned how and why quilts became to be. One practical, one artistic.
As part of her wedding trousseau, the soon to be bride was supposed to make a blanket which would keep her and her husband warm. To make their blankets, they used their worn out clothing. Here's where it gets beautiful.
Slave owners did not allow artistic expression from their slaves. So the slaves used their discarded bits and pieces of cloth to express themselves. And because most slave owners didn't look beyond their blind belief that these people were less than human, they never saw the beauty they were creating.
In the twisted realm of slavery, for a slave owner to justify their treatment of slaves, he/she couldn't allow that person to also have a spirit capable of creative expression. In fact, in many households, artistic expression was a punishable offense.
One of the most famous folk hymns, Amazing Grace, became the lyrical anthem against slavery. It was written by a former slave runner, English poet and clergyman, John Newton, after he had an epiphany on a ship during a storm, which was carrying slaves. On the brink of drowning, he realized how inhumanly awful his occupation was.
The music is haunting and the words are a testament to the creative power of the human soul to transcend darkness and be lifted into the light.
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.