1916 - 2010

Nettie Young

Alberta, Alabama
About

I was raised up in a place they called Young’s, the old Young plantation. My daddy’s father had been a slave named Irby but was sold to the Pettways, so my daddy was named Pettway, same as all the others owned by the Pettways. Daddy had lived down in the Bend. When he got grown he was free from the Pettway ownership and could go where he wanted to go, and he went up to the Young plantation to work. He farmed up there—you called it sharecropping, what he did. Later on, he got where he could rent the land, but that wasn’t much better.

I grew up in the renting time. Then when I got married we did some rent farming from the Wilkinsons. They had bought all the land around up there. Then we moved down to this house in 1945. Old Man Wilkinson had bought this house in a auction and wanted my husband, Clint Young, to live in it. We was living up in Wilkinson’s pasture in a common wooden shack, and this house was a whole improvement. So, Old Man Wilkinson sold it to us for $4,000, higher than the cost was supposed to be, thinking we’d fall behind and he could take it back. But we was able to keep up the payments, and later on, the government, the FHA, give us the loan, so we was able to get the house and keep the house ever since.

I started working quilts when I was a child. My mother would have me sit with her, and I was watching her and putting scraps together, doing like she was doing. She’d drop those scraps at her feet, and I’d be picking them up. My mama looked at that thing and told me I did good. I felt good, like I had done a big job. I always loved sewing. I made all my children’s clothes. Didn’t need a pattern. Same with quilts. If I seen a dress or a quilt or something I liked, I can make it. I just draw it out the way I want it. In the quilting bee time, I started using patterns, but I shouldn’t have did it. It broke the ideas I had in my head. I should have stayed with my own ideas. I kept making quilts all the way up to last year. I still got the feeling every now and then to sew, but I just don’t have the mind to do it now. My hands are good, but I ain’t quite got the spirit—not like before, when I’m always ready, day and night. Age got me.

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South

This catalogue accompanies the exhibition Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South, presented at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, June 8-November 17, 2019.

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: Artists of the African American South

Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South

Philadelphia Museum of Art
June 8, 2019 to September 2, 2019

The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South, an exhibition including paintings, sculptures, and quilts that celebrates the recent acquisition of 24 works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
June 8, 2019 to November 17, 2019

As embodiments of the African American experience and cultural legacies, the works of art featured in Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South are rooted in African aesthetic legacies, familial tradition, and communal ethos. Previously marginalized as “folk or self-taught” art, they now take their rightful place as significant contributors to the canon of American Modernism.

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.”

Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
June 4 – September 4, 2006

"Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt" features seventy spectacular quilts made by four generations of women in Gee's Bend, a small, isolated African American community in southwest Alabama. With bold improvisation of traditional quilt motifs, these women have created a style all their own. Made between the 1930s and the present, the Gee's Bend quilts’ bright patterns, inventive color combinations, lively irregularities and unexpected compositional variations make them outstanding examples of modern art.

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 Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilts of Gee's Bend documentary accompanies the major exhibitions of Gee's Bend quilts. Set in the quiltmaker's homes and yard, and told through the women's voices, this music-filled, 28-minute documentary takes viewers inside the art and fascinating living history of a uniquely American community and art form.

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."