Kenyon College

Housetop Quilt


Artist: Nellie Mae Abrams
Title of Work: Housetop
Year: c. 1970
Dimensions: 84″ x 72″
Material: Denim and cotton
Photo Line: Arnett Foundation Collection
Collection Credit: Courtesy of the Arnett Collection

 This masterful patchwork quilt, product of a long-standing tradition in the small rural community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, serves as a visual hybrid of craft and function with sensitive abstraction. The quilt expresses both a vernacular culture and a sophisticated transformation of material that stylistically recalls 20th century modernist abstraction. The women of Gee’s Bend translate their rural surroundings into the quilt designs, imbuing the product with a sense of authentic attachment to the land. In this way the quilts reinterpret and abstract the landscape tradition. The intricate patchwork of this quilt, manifested in farmland-like segments, recalls a deep connection to the land and accesses a personal feeling of home and place. The delicate dance of denim and cotton evokes the memory of old clothing dirtied from a day of hard labor in the fields and faded by a blazing sun.

–Lily Kaizer ‘12, Gund Gallery Associate