Blocks and strips work-clothes quilt

  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Cotton and denim
79 x 69 inches
Collection of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Lucy Mingo likes to work with discarded clothes, preferring the feeling of their softer hues and textures. She envisions her transformations of old clothing into quilts as a metaphor for surviving hard times. In her words, “You know, we had hard times. We worked in the fields, we picked cotton, and sometimes we had it and sometimes we didn’t. And so you look at your quilt and you say, ‘This is some of the old clothes that I wore in the fields. I wore them out, but they’re still doing good.’”

In 1959, Mingo sewed this nearly monochromatic quilt using old pants, shirt tops, and material scraps from a nearby shirt factory. An irregular scaffolding of blocks and strips laid out in several tones of blue, the bedcover also includes a stroke of brown and a daub of rich navy whose unexpected presence enlivens the design. The introduction of such sudden incongruities within a dominant pattern is a common and powerful formal tactic among many of the improvisational quiltmakers from Gee's Bend.