Sue Willie Seltzer (1922–2010), String-pieced blocks and bars (detail), c. 1965
Cotton, denim, flannel, 87 x 76 in.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Sue Willie Seltzer (1921-2010) was born in Gee’s Bend and later moved north a few miles to Rehoboth, Alabama. One of four children, she had a difficult childhood and worked all her life in the fields picking cotton. She did not start making quilts until her thirties when she joined an informal quilting group that went from house to house, quitting tops for neighbors. 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.
Seltzer places her quilts within a larger context of living a righteous life where she can be judged through the sum of her earthly works, including the quilts she pieces in her home:
What I am doing is real. And anybody can say it is real, because what I do is real. A person can judge me by my quilts, because I am real. And you know why? Because God is with me all the time. God’s with me. And when I go to talking about him it make me feel good. I’m a child of God. I know it. I’m for real!
Sue Willie Seltzer’s work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art.
Learn more about Sue Willie Seltzer here.
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