1894 - 1971

Henrietta Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
    About

    Henrietta Pettway, like her daughter-in-law Allie Pettway (Henrietta's son, John the Baptist, was Allie's husband) was also a gifted quiltmaker. Among her surviving compositions is a four-block, center medallion "Log Cabin" variation in the form known among some local women as the "Hog Pen Pole." Dating from around the late 1920s and made of cotton and cotton sacking, it is beautiful even in its faded condition. It suggests how well used these quilts were; it also reveals how far back in the Gee's Bend quiltmaking tradition the improvisational approach can be found. Allie remembers her mother-in-law:

    My mother-in-law, Henrietta Pettway, she was staying down here the whole time that I know her since I was a little girl, 'cause John the Baptist come from up here, come right on down to my house to court me. After while, after we got married, they moved us right here—me, John the Baptist, Henrietta, and her children stay right here together. Henrietta would go to the field and help us some, but when she got old she would stay home and tend to the children. Took care of my children, that's what your mother would do. . . . I got good ideas from my mother-in-law, Henrietta. Me and her sewed together.

    Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

    Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

    Creation Story explores parallels and intersections in the works of Dial and his fellow Alabamians, the remarkable quilters of Gee’s Bend. In the tradition of African American cemetery constructions and yard art, these artists harness the tactile properties and symbolic associations of cast-off materials in creating an art of profound beauty and evocative power.
    Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

    Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

    This book and exhibition are part of a growing family of research projects about the African American community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and its quilts. Surrounded on three sides by a river, Gee’s Bend developed a distinctive local culture and quilt design aesthetic. In 2002 the inaugural exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend documented these quiltmaking achievements. Expanding upon that initial exhibition and its accompanying publications, Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt offers a deeper look into the women and their art, and a more focused investigation into the nature and inspirations—and future—of the Gee’s Bend quilt tradition.

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

    Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

    We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South

    We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South

    Turner Contemporary
    February 7, 2020 to September 6, 2020

    We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states.

    Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South

    Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South

    Philadelphia Museum of Art
    June 8, 2019 to September 2, 2019

    The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South, an exhibition including paintings, sculptures, and quilts that celebrates the recent acquisition of 24 works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

    Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

    Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

    Frist Center for the Visual Arts
    May 25 - September 2, 2012

    This exhibition explores parallels and intersections in the works of the world-famous Gee’s Bend quilters and the master of assemblage art, Thornton Dial. Quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend feature a sophisticated orchestration of color and eccentric quasi-geometric shapes composing what the New York Times has said are “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

    Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

    Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
    June 4 – September 4, 2006

    "Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt" features seventy spectacular quilts made by four generations of women in Gee's Bend, a small, isolated African American community in southwest Alabama. With bold improvisation of traditional quilt motifs, these women have created a style all their own. Made between the 1930s and the present, the Gee's Bend quilts’ bright patterns, inventive color combinations, lively irregularities and unexpected compositional variations make them outstanding examples of modern art.

    The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

    This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."