Blocks, strips, strings, and half squares

  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
84 x 81 inches
Collection of
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

One of Mary Lee Bendolph’s most original creations is a group of quilts that were inspired by a “fine art” intaglio print she herself made during the two weeks she spend with Louisiana Bendolph at Paulson Press in Berkeley, California in the summer of 2005. She made prints based on her quilts, adapting one medium to another, then when she got home, she began to introduce the aesthetic of her prints into the quilts she made. Her quilt “Blocks, strips, strings, and half squares” bubbles over with African American improvisations, pattern redirections, and syncopation. At the same time, its stripped-down formalism (like so many Gee’s Bend quilts) fits easily with the universalist aesthetic claims of high modernism. But overarchingly, the quilt’s dominant theme is her ingenious take on what Gee’s Benders call “strings”—interlaced wedge shapes of cloth. Bendolph subsumes all of these crosscurrents into a piece of art that is also self-referential within the artist’s body of work.