Gee's Bend Hits Boise 

This fall, Boise has been bitten hard by the Gee's Bend bug. On Oct. 10, Boise Art Museum unveiled its newest exhibit, "A Survey of Gee's Bend Quilts," and on Oct. 30, Stewart Gallery also opened a similar exhibit titled "Gee's Bend."

Gee's Bend, Ala., is a small African-American community near the Alabama River. According to quiltsofgeesbend.com, the women of Gee's Bend have been creating quilts since the middle of the 20th century with a "distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African-American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art." The pieces used for quilting are in a range of fabrics from cotton to corduroy to yarn and even old polyester leisure suits, and are filled with colors seldom used in modern textiles.

In 2002, 70 of the quilts were exhibited in the Houston Museum of Art, followed by an exhibition in the Whitney Museum in New York. The New York Times' Mike Kimmelman called the Gee's Bend quilts "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."

The BAM exhibit features 25 of the American treasures created between 1940 and 2006, and will be accompanied by 20 contemporary prints made by Gee's Bend artists who were inspired by the quilts. Stewart Gallery will also feature a selection of quilts and etchings made by Gee's Bend artists Louisiana Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Bennett and Loretta Pettway.

This First Thursday, BAM is offering a quilting demonstration with Gee's Bend quilters from 10 a.m. to noon. Later that evening, BAM will also host a panel discussion with artists Louisiana Bendolph and China Pettway from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and a studio art exploration from 5-8 p.m., during which attendees can design their own textiles inspired by the exhibition.

Stewart Gallery's exhibit runs through Nov. 24. Stewart Gallery, 1110 W. Jefferson St., 208-433-0593, stewartgallery.com. BAM's exhibit runs through Jan. 17, 2010. Boise Art Museum, 670 Julia Davis Drive, 208-345-8330, boiseartmuseum.org.

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