For decades Thornton Dial, James “Son Ford” Thomas, Lonnie Holley, Mary T. Smith, Purvis Young, and many other Black artists in the South worked with little recognition, often using recycled materials as their art supplies and yards, porches, or boarded-up storefronts as their galleries. The women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, made dazzling quilts from well-worn clothing or leftover scraps of fabric. Despite racism and other forms of discrimination, all of these artists drew on deep cultural and spiritual traditions to create some of the finest art of our time.
In 2020, the National Gallery acquired 40 sculptures, assemblages, paintings, reliefs, quilts, and drawings from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and several related gifts have recently entered the collection as well. Enjoy these inventive works, including nine Gee’s Bend quilts, and learn the remarkable stories of their making and makers.