String-pieced blocks and bars

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
c. 1965
Cotton, denim, flannel
87 x 76 inches
Collection of
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Sue Willie Seltzer was once part of a group of friends who traveled from house to house, quilting tops for neighbors. (She did not begin to piece her own quilts until she was in her thirties.) She found it difficult to put together pieced blocks in traditional patchwork patterns and instead used “strings" of squares and rectangles to construct dynamic abstractions, often contrasting two colors or tonalities. The visual promenades Seltzer creates echo the thoughts of another Rehoboth quiltmaker, Mensie Lee Pettway, who chooses homebuilders’ terms to describe making quilts: “You can start with a bedroom over there or a den over here, and just add on what you want.” This quilt offers an intriguing comparison to an Amelia Bennett work from the same time (Blocks and strips, c. 1965). Both pieces create spaces that echo the layout of the fields, garden plots, and houses of the neighborhood. In Bennett’s quilt, narrow strips of plain and patterned fabrics combine into a reflective space, while Seltzer’s is dominated by a bold, yellow—and—beige central stripe uniting a grid of colorful narrow strips grounded by longer lengths of black fabric. Carefully executed lines of hand quilting reinforce the quilt’s geometry. These artists similarly synthesize space and place.