Openings & Events

Gallery Talk: Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

When: Fri., May 25, 12 p.m. 2012

Shortly after the Fairy Tales exhibit opened at the Frist, I stopped by for a tour of another gallery and ran into curator Mark Scala. When I mentioned that he must welcome the chance to take a break after wrangling such an ambitious exhibit, Scala insisted he’d already moved on to Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial. The popular centerpiece of the show will no doubt be the quilts made by the Gee’s Bend community, southwest of Selma, Ala. The quilts’ sophisticated arrangements of color and shape have inspired The New York Times to proclaim the pieces “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.” However, Scala is not satisfied to simply let the crowd-pleasing works stand on their own. In Creation Story, the Gee’s Bend pieces are compared and contrasted with the sculptural assemblages of fellow Alabama artist Thornton Dial. For me, the Gee’s Bend works speak to African traditions and the ways in which the influences of those older cultures married with American arts and crafts to create unique expressions of national identity, while Dial’s work simply evokes wild, unfettered, irreverent, disturbing and energized expression itself. During our chat, Scala mentioned that the two bodies of work had a way of balancing each other out. That’s another way of saying this show has something for everyone. Join Scala and William Arnett, founder and chief curator of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, for an informal but illuminating exploration of the show.

Joe Nolan

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