1902 - 1981

Missouri Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
About

Arlonzia Pettway (b. 1923) tells of her mother, Missouri Pettway.

My mama said she start working on the farm with her parents when she was twelve. When she was about eighteen, she married my daddy, Nathaniel Pettway. They birthed twelve children. I’m their third child. I can remember her piecing up quilts out of old pants legs and shirt sleeves, and any old thing she could find. Times was hard back then when I was real small. I remember her tearing up a old overcoat to make a quilt out.

When I was a little girl, too little to sew, I used to thread needles for her. She couldn’t see too good and she say, "Tear the shirt sleeves and tails and pants legs," and I would pick out all the blue pieces and stack them together, and pick out the tan pieces and stack them together, and the dark pieces. I get all the colors arranged for her in stacks so she could just reach for what she wanted in a chair in front of her. She would start about nine in the morning making the quilt, and by four in the evening she was through piecing it. She would not start quilting until she had made about ten tops.

She worked two years in the field after she was married, and then Daddy made her stay home and take care of children. That’s when she started piecing quilts all through the summer, and she would farm a garden around the house, but she wouldn't go to the swamp and work those fields.

History Refused to Die: The Enduring Legacy of the African American Art of Alabama

History Refused to Die: The Enduring Legacy of the African American Art of Alabama

After the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Alabama produced an impressive number of African American self-taught artists whose work particularly focused on the Civil Rights Movement and on aspects of history that led to it. This happened, in part, because the action was right on their doorsteps: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma March, the murder of four little girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was a spontaneous response to an emerging opportunity, and it occurred all over the South.
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.

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells the story of this town and its art.

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.

Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, Vol. 2

Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, Vol. 2

Completing the two-volume set, "Souls Grown Deep, Vol. 2" takes the visual and historical presentation of the first volume to a richer level, offering an even broader array of artistic styles and media. Breaking away from the stereotypes that identity folk art and the South with rural, isolated, static and agrarian ways of life, these pages unveil an art that embodies social change and continues to flourish at the dawn of a new century.
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.”

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
September 6 – November 10, 2002

"The Quilts of Gee’s Bend" celebrates the artistic legacy of four generations of African-American women from a small, historically all-black community in rural southern Alabama. This exhibition of over sixty extraordinary quilts that were made between 1930 and 2000 showcases a body of work that is bold, spirited, moving, and hailed by Michael Kimmelman, in The New York Times, as “some of the most miraculous works of art America has produced.”

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."