“It was some kind of quilt thing; pieces of things they had once worn or slept under.”
- Toni Morrison, Beloved.
In the 19th century enslaved plantation workers of Gee's Bend, Alabama crafted one of the most important living legacies in American art history. Isolated from outside influences by an Alabama River cul-de-sac, the community incubated a staggeringly unique found fabric quilting tradition echoing African textile patterns. These stunning abstract designs would become widely regarded as modern art masterpieces, defiantly voicing a rich intergenerational narrative.
Gee’s Bend quilts have been collected extensively by prominent museums, inspiring high-profile homage from official First Lady portraiture to acclaimed runway shows. But in an all too familiar American refrain, the artists themselves still face the social and economic aftermath of the Antebellum South.
“Generations,” the debut collaboration between the quilters of Gee’s Bend and generative artist Anna Lucia, fosters a dialog between handcrafted and digital art through the blockchain, immutably and universally conveying an essential history transcending bloodlines. The aim is to disrupt the centuries-old cycle of Black culture appropriation by enabling enduring attribution and equitable exposure to the value created by the works.
The alternating polyrhythmic patterns prevalent in African musical traditions are mirrored in the textiles of Gee’s Bend, and it is this vibrant and complex visual language that is the focus of the collection. “Generations” is envisioned as a call and response between four of the most prolific quilters - Louisiana Bendolph, Loretta Petway Bennett, Lucy Pettway, and Essie Bendolph Pettway - and Anna Lucia, a pioneering textile-inspired generative artist. As works of digital art, the collection also fosters a direct dialogue between the artists and a wider audience of digital collectors.
“Generations” is an expression of the “heritage algorithms” so alive in Gee’s Bend’s hand-stitched masterworks, remixed artistically through digital code. The quilters have created works of extraordinary beauty and cultural significance. “Generations” seeks to preserve and celebrate that legacy by weaving a rich new trans-media cultural storyline connecting the past, present, and future.
“The fabric of the future is woven on the looms of the past.”
- Octavia Butler, Kindred
About the Author
Greg Liburd is a co-founder of Refraction, a creative-run on-chain global art and events community. He is a Cannes-winning interactive creative director and writer, with two-decades experience in publishing, television and film as an author, print editor, and screenwriter. As a serial entrepreneur, Liburd has focused on social products leveraging emergent technologies like AI, web3 and voice to empower creatives. His multi-disciplinary Afrofuturist practice, Black Space Agency, works to further diverse futures through art, enterprise and activism.