Gearldine Westbrook (1919–2016), "Housetop" variation (detail), 1982
Corduroy and cotton, 94 x 78 in.; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Gearldine Westbrook’s 1982 sixteen-block “Housetop” quilt is typical of its time. It is made entirely of Sears corduroy obtained from the Freedom Quilting Bee, with its dominant colors called “avocado leaf” and “cherry red” in the Sears catalog. Westbrook was in her sixties when she made the quilt, older than most women who undertook to work with corduroy, and she never used the quilt. She remembers making it because “I just want to see if l can do it.”
Gearldine Westbrook (1919-2016) was born in Gastonburg, Alabama, and lived in Alberta, just up the road from Gee’s Bend. A frequent quiltmaking companion of her sister-in-law Amelia Bennett, Westbrook developed a style that resembles the quilts of her neighbors and relatives in Rehoboth and Alberta, though hers is perhaps the most dynamic of this group when it comes to color sense and rhythmical application of patterns. Her body of work displays the range of fabric available to quilters in different eras, from work clothes quilts of the 1950s and Sears corduroy of the 1970s to inexpensive contemporary domestic textiles of the 1990s and early 2000s. She never followed a pattern to quilt, instead preferring to use her own mind and artistic imagination to "figure out a way to put [the pieces] together."
Gearldine Westbrook’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Currier Museum of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Learn more about Gearldine Westbrook here.
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