Roughness Part 3 — Roughness as Intention, the quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph

 
 Gee's Bend quilter par excellence, Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via  soulsgrowndeep.org .

Gee's Bend quilter par excellence, Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via soulsgrowndeep.org.

 

Roughness reflects an artistic intention.  Without the intention, roughness will be airbrushed away and replaced with something lacking in depth.

The stunning work of quilters such as Mary Lee Bendolph stems in part from her operating within constraints—what materials are available—but much more from her artistic choices. 

 "Lonnie Holley's Freedom" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via  a rtsy.net.

"Lonnie Holley's Freedom" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via artsy.net.

 
 "Strip Quilt" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via  artsy.net .

"Strip Quilt" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via artsy.net.

 
 "Blocks, Strips, Strings and Half Squares" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via  whyquiltsmatter.org .

"Blocks, Strips, Strings and Half Squares" by Mary Lee Bendolph.  Image via whyquiltsmatter.org.

 

For instance, she surely has the skills to make her quilts perfectly rectilinear, but doing so would deprive these quilts of their magic, which relies on what architect Christopher Alexander might term their roughness.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Alexander believes that . . .

“Things which have real life always have a certain ease, a morphological roughness. This is not an accidental property.”  

“The seemingly rough arrangement is more precise because it comes from a much more careful guarding of the essential centers of the design.”

Christopher Alexander, Book One, The Nature of Order, p. 210, 211

One of Bendolph’s artistic strengths is her valorization of roughness.  She intends it and understands its necessity.  Craftspeople, painters, writers, music producers, and filmmakers might learn from her work if they wish to produce work of similar depth, so overflowing with life.


Thank you for reading.