Aolar Mosely (1912–1999), "Housetop"—"Half-Log Cabin" variation (detail), c. 1950
Cotton clothing and unbleached muslin sacking, 75 x 75 in.; Studio Museum in Harlem, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Within the simple concept of squares within squares, Gee's Bend quiltmakers exercise their individual design abilities to produce an extraordinary variety of solutions as evidenced by this quilt.
It was as a girl that Aolar Carson Mosely, a founding member of the Freedom Quilting Bee, first observed the phenomenon of the quilting bee. Her mother would move from one house to another to join groups of quilters. “They didn’t have something to buy a blanket,” she recalls. “They had to quilt to cover up.” She helped to supply her mother with quilting frames by going with the others into the woods, where they would find four long poles, trim them, and let them dry. Her father would bore holes in the ends of the poles and attach them together with nails.
She started making her own quilts when she was twelve.
I’m going to tell you the truth; we couldn’t get cloth back then like I can now. When an old shirt would wear out, we’d tear them up and sew ’em on. I’d just tear up the shirts and the overalls and make me a quilt. I sewed just as much as I could get me some rags.
Mosely’s quilts display considerable improvisation and originality yet are meticulously assembled. According to her daughter, Mary Lee Bendolph, "She was slow and careful more than me." Unlike many of her neighbors, Mosely used a machine purchased by her father. "I ain't never learned to sew with my hand. Most everything I make with a machine." She lived her final years with her daughter after her home burned in 1984 and destroyed nearly all of her quilts.
Aolar Mosely’s work is in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Tate Modern, and the Phillips Collection.
Learn more about Aolar Mosely here.
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