Loretta Pettway (b. 1942), Medallion (detail), c. 1960
Synthetic knit and cotton stacking material, 80 x 70 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Loretta Pettway’s quilts show the resistance, or reluctance, to make quilts the way anyone else would; she became a fine technician, but that rarely seems to be what she cares most about. In this work, she deliberately surrounds an area of six blocks with black and white frames whose irregularity reinforces the drama and energy of the piece.
In her youth, Loretta Pettway (b. 1942) had many Pettway quiltmaking mentors—including Missouri, Louella, Qunnie, grandmother Prissy, and stepmother Plummer T.—but she has kept to herself artistically throughout her adult life. Although she disliked sewing as a child, she pieced her first quilt with her grandmother’s encouragement when she was eleven. Her earliest surviving quilts are made of everyday clothing, especially men's work clothes.
As a teenager, Pettway gravitated toward the "Bricklayer" pattern, popular among her relatives and neighbors in Pettway.
My husband, Walter, he worked at Henry Brick and he brought home two picture boards of bricks. I liked them and tried to copy them. I always did like a ‘Bricklayer.’ It made me think about what I wanted. Always did want a brick house.
In 2006, two of Pettway’s quilts appeared on U.S. postage stamps as part of the American Treasures series. In 2015, she received a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Her work is held in numerous permanent collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Learn more about Loretta Pettway here.
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