1953 -

Lucy L. Witherspoon

Boykin, Alabama
About

Though she has made very few quilts, Lucy L. Witherspoon shows the talent and stylistic qualities of her mother, Linda Pettway.

I was small when they was farming down here. My mama used to take us in the fields but she just sit us down while they worked. I went through high school down here. Went up to Connecticut for eight years, but didn't like the city. I'm a country girl. Me and my sister Gloria [Hoppins], we learned quilting from my mama, Linda Pettway. We do it wrong she hit us with her hand, sometimes with a belt. She kept us straight. We couldn't even go out after it got dark.

They call me "Pearlie" since I was about twelve. Say I'm like my auntie Pearlie Pettway. My daddy's mama was City Pettway, Missouri's sister. Missouri, Arlonzia's mama. Lot of quilts in my family. But I didn't do much. Don't like to work.

I started doing home health care three years in June. And I used to work at the day care with Tinnie Dell. This kind of work I like, working with old people and young people. In between, they hard to deal with.

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 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.

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."