Mama's Song [intaglio print]

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Color aquatint, spitbite aquatint, and softground etching
33 x 24 inches
Collection of
Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Like quiltmaking, singing was an emancipatory act and an essential form of self-expression that sustained nearly all of the women of Gee’s Bend. In fact, singing and quiltmaking often went together, an outpouring of haunting gospel harmonies and ecstatic, spontaneous prayers amidst the endless rhythms of stitching. In a tribute to her own mother's singing and quiltmaking, Bendolph produced an image called Mama’s Song, an intaglio print that she was invited to make at a fine art press in California. In that piece and in several of the quilts that she fashioned after it, Bendolph envisions the spirit of her mother in a scattering of brilliant red squares. She embeds these patches of color and light in a dynamic field of black and white patterning that evokes the visual cadences of piano keys and musical notes, symbols of her mother’s creative “voice."

Bendolph describes her inspiration: “Her desk was like a piano. She would be praying, singing, and piecing quilts. She would sit there and do this, groaning, moaning, asking, ‘Who will watch over my children when I am in my grave?’ The colors and patterns of Mama’s Song reminded me of a piano. Mama wanted to protect me, but there were things she didn’t tell me about. Not telling me is not protecting me. I said, I won't be ashamed to tell my children what they need to know.”