"Housetop" - fractured medallion variation (Primary Title)

Rita Mae Pettway, American, born 1941 (Artist)

Corduroy Light levels: Not to exceed 5 footcandles (50 lux)
Overall: 79 1/8 × 76 1/2 × 1/2 in. (200.98 × 194.31 × 1.27 cm)
Not on view

Rita Mae Pettway is a member of a group known today as the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective. The town of Gee’s Bend, later named Boykin, is located southwest of Selma, Alabama. Because of its geographical isolation, many of the quilters in the enclave are direct descendants of the enslaved Africans who populated plantations in the area. The development of their unique aesthetic emerged from necessity: living in unheated quarters, they made quilts for warmth and utility. Sacred sensibilities are intertwined in Gee’s Bend quilts, preserved from their ancestors brought to America as enslaved labor. In Housetop (Fragmented Medallion), named for the pattern, the push and pull of the lines are associated with “call and response,” a cultural tradition used in language, music, and religious worship that migrated through channels of the African Diaspora. With alternating colors, the two sides of this quilt seem to call back and forth to one another. This pattern also creates a visual framework to trap evil, which was believed to travel in straight lines.

Drawing upon aesthetic legacies, creative vision, and patterns from the world around them, Black quilters have constructed some of the most iconic textiles of the American South.

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection
2021: "The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse", VMFA, May 22 - September 6, 2021

A Conversation with Mary Pettway

Interview with artist Mary Pettway conducted in October 2019 discussing her quilting practice, the community of Gee's Bend and quilts included in the permanent collection of VMFA.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.