Mary Lee Bendolph (b. 1935), Blocks, strips, strings, and half squares (detail) 2005
Cotton, 84 x 81 in.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Mary Lee Bendolph’s 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.
One of the best-known and most revered Gee’s Bend quiltmakers, Mary Lee Bendolph (b. 1935), has spent many decades transforming scraps of old cloth into aesthetic marvels. To create her quilts, she tears worn and discarded clothing into simple strips and blocks of fabric, then assembles them into highly refined geometric abstractions. Her genius resides in her ability to invent a seemingly endless variety of complex compositions and astounding visual effects from a rudimentary vocabulary of shapes.
Mary Lee Bendolph’s 1998 “Housetop” variation appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 2006 as part of the American Treasures series. In 2015 she received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor for folk and traditional arts in the United States. Her work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; High Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art; National Gallery of Art; New Orleans Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Phillips Collection; The Studio Museum in Harlem; Tate Modern; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Learn more about Mary Lee Bendolph here.
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SelectionMany of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. We are continually adding new artworks to our offering, so be sure to check back regularly as you build your own gallery.