Matriarch quilt maker, Mary Lee Bendolph (born 1935) descends from generations of accomplished quilt makers in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Bendolph was one of many from Gee’s Bend who accompanied Martin Luther King, Jr. in his march at Camden, Alabama in 1965. In 1999, she was profiled in a Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize–winning article, Crossing Over: Mary Lee’s Vision. Her quilt making style marries a flair for improvisation to traditional construction techniques that emphasize rectangles and squares. Her small compositions of cloth build to create complicated compositions that occasionally contain humorous touches and autobiographical references. Her quilts have been featured in museum and gallery exhibitions, including The Quilts of Gee’s Bend and Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt. Bendolph was the featured artist in the traveling exhibition Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the U.S. Department of State, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies and the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.
Born 1935 in Gee's Bend, Alabama.
Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
In the Studio: Inherent Threads, Tate Modern, London, UK (ongoing)
Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C
Intersections: Stanford Biggers, The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
We Will Walk- Art and Resistance in the American South, Turner Contemporary, Margate, England
Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph, Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum, MA and Swarthmore College List Gallery, PA
Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Pettway, and Lucy Mingo: NEA National Heritage Fellows, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA
House or Home: Architectural Form in the Print, Paulson Fontaine Press, Berkeley, CA
Coloring Outside the Lines, 333 Montezuma Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Gee’s Bend Tradition, Lehman College Art Gallery, Lehman College, the Bronx, New York
Linda Day Clark: The Gee’s Bend Photographs, Lehman College Art Gallery, Lehman College, the Bronx, New York
Foundation forArt and Preservation in Embassies, East Hampton, New York
Rock, Paper, Scissors, 333 Montezuma Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial, First Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee
Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee's Bend and Beyond Tour, The Paine Art Center & Gardens Oshkosh , WI (Traveled to: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia , Halifax Nova Scotia; Museum of International Folk Art Santa Fe , NM; Cultural Resources Commission Tallahassee , FL; Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MO)
The Architecture of Gee's Bend Quilts, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD; Tacoma Museum of Art, Tacoma, WA; Speed Art Museum, KY; Denver Museum of Art, Denver, CO; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA)
The Quilts of Gee's Bend, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (Traveled to: Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, Auburn, AL; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)
Featured in the Pulitzer Prize winning article, Crossing Over, by J. R. Moehringer of the Los Angeles Times, August 22, 1999