Monday, August 01, 2005

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

When is a quilt not a bedspread? When it’s a work of art.

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, which I saw at an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Friday with friends from Inspiration House, represent to me the highest art form because they were never intended to be art. Their creators had an irrepressible inner flame that had to find expression, but I doubt they thought of themselves as artists. This was left to be discovered by the outside world when coming upon their work in more recent years.

Made from worn pant legs, old shirts, scraps from textile work and feedbags, these quilts tell a story of life in the rural South. Hardship and love, illiteracy and brilliance, loss and faith, woven together so tightly that you can’t see one without the other, these unfathomable lives are a testament to Life conquering all.

Take a look at their faces, and some of their quilts. Amazing what is etched there.

After the tour, the group I was with from Inspiration House shared some ideas about how the exhibit had moved them. Some talked about being inspired by the women themselves, others talked about their own quilting experiences with their own mothers. There was a general sighing for the specific stories we’d heard about birthing, living and dying at Gee’s Bend, along with deep admiration for where they find themselves now -- the center of a national exhibition of their work.

What I gained was a new appreciation for the word “scraps.”

Many of the most vibrant quilts were made from scraps the women accumulated after doing piece work for Sears Roebuck on contract. As we discussed this as a group, I was suddenly reminded of a Bible story that had always troubled me.

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Here’s this lady, coming to Jesus asking for help, and he compares her and her kind to dogs. This always bothered me. But then she makes her point, he accepts her insight, and he heals her daughter.

The “crumbs” from this table are of course food, yet in my mind I’d translated it to the more recent term of “table scraps,” the kind we fed to our dog when I was young. Now, in the context of the quiltmakers, the scraps took on new meaning.

Even though scraps fell from the masters’ table, that didn’t mean you had to just consume them and then they’re gone. These ladies from Gee’s Bend took those scraps and made them more than what they were. They maximized them, glorified them, multiplied them.

This profound celebration of what womanhood naturally does resolved the Bible story for me. It is the spirit of womanhood to take the smallest, humblest of things and magnify them. To beautify the world in tiny details. To take the scraps, the crumbs, and to create, exalt, heal.

This, to me, is art.


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3 Comments:

At 8/02/2005 01:36:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

I once had an insight about carpet during a meditation. I saw that every thought of Truth and Love I had was weaving on a carpet of Light for the world. The dark patches which I still saw in this 'world carpet' were all the dark thoughts still held in mortal mind.

Happy weaving!
Love and peace and joy are in you now.
Veronika

Miracle Practice - Healing Circle of Light
www.trueimage.name

 
At 8/04/2005 10:20:00 AM, Anonymous chris raymond said...

laura i REALLY love your insight about the bible story. i had never thought about the story in light of womanhood...it is great.
thanks!

Chris

 
At 8/22/2005 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Dear Laura,
In this week's Bible Lesson is the story of the woman who had a
daughter with an unclean spirit.
I remember that you wrote about it but I couldn't find the article
again. Therefore I just send you what came to me suddenly very clearly,
hoping you would enjoy this insight too.
Love and peace, Veronika

Mark 7:25-30

Suddenly it dawns on me why Jesus ‘tested’ the woman’s mental state
first. Children get healed through their parents. If the woman would
have just wanted Jesus to heal her daughter the same way that one asks
for a pill to ‘fix’ things, he couldn’t have responded to her request.
But she was willing to ‘repent,’ that is ‘change her mind.’
She had the right kind of humility for it. This Jesus saw and this what
made the way for the healing of her daughter to take place.

Miracle Practice - Healing Circle of Light
www.trueimage.name

 

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