Formstorming: Alex Hagen

The Gee’s Bend quilts are all beautiful and unique examples of formstorming – acts of creativity and visual thinking that result from challenging oneself to overcome basic design problems. By approaching these problems in unique and original ways, artists such as the Gee’s Bend quilters could create fantastic new designs. They were often limited in their artistic vision by the materials and experience they had on hand (being in an isolated community) but made up for it with sewing these creative design masterpieces found nowhere else in the world.

“Bricklayer” variation by Louisiana P. Bendolph, sewn from colored pieces of cotton. Currently exhibited in the High Museum of Art.

The quilt I chose is called “Bricklayer variation” by Lousiana P. Bendolph, a magnificent specimen of quilt featuring strong, bold colors and patterns. What initially caught my eye about this quilt was the lack of repeating patches as compared to the other examples – the lack of balance itself caught my eye. The different colors, patterns, and the vertical red stripe serve to make a unique and visually appealing asymmetry. I appreciate that the red stripe serves to break up the negative space in the dark part of this quilt, which keeps the quilt from becoming too skewed to one side. While rhythm can add visual interest to a design, the breaking of a rhythm can be just as or even more impactful. I am a believer that geometric designs work best for these kinds of quilts; looking back over the rest of the designs, quilts that expressed sharp edges, right angles and repetition often caught my eye over other, more organic designs. I think that this quilt is supposed to be representational in design, as by its title “Bricklayer variation” you can infer that the quilt depicts the literal act of bricklaying, as evidenced by the stacked red tiles. The various shapes come together as a whole to create a scene that is probably learned from our own experiences.

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