Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph and Celebrating the Quilts of Gee’s Bend
Two concurrent exhibitions: Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph and Responses to Gee's Bend, ran at Swarthmore College from September 6 to October 28, 2018. These exhibitions, public events, and an accompanying 82-page scholarly catalog examined the history and aesthetic legacy of Gee's Bend and celebrated the artistry of Mary Lee Bendolph, one of three quilters from Gee's Bend, Alabama who were recognized with a 2015 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. Mary Lee Bendolph has been profiled in numerous essays including the 1999 Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize-winning article "Crossing Over". Together with other quilters in the remote community of Gee's Bend, she has been honored through nationally touring museum exhibitions such as The Quilts of Gee’s Bend (2002) and The Architecture of the Quilt (2006).
Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph, took place in both the List Gallery and McCabe Library and featured a selection of quilts Mary Lee Bendolph made between the 1970s and 2010 as well as several prints she made in collaboration with master printers at Paulson Bott Press (now Paulson Fontaine Press) in 2005. McCabe Library's Upper Atrium featured several quilts by Mary Lee Bendolph together with one quilt by her mother, Aolar Carson Mosely (1912—1999), and several quilts made by her daughter, Essie Bendolph Pettway (b. 1956)—three generations of women who responded to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow with remarkable faith, resilience, and creativity.
Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph marks Mary Lee's first solo exhibition and highlights her distinctive approach; it also reflects the intergenerational and communal practice of quilt making in Gee's Bend.