chapter  5
11 Pages

In Need of Other(s)

Yvonne Wells is a self-taught artist/quilt-maker from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the United States. Her story and picture quilts express narratives of personal and political experiences. She states: “What my head sees, my heart feels, my hand creates” (Exhibit Guide, Quilted Messages, International Quilt Study Center & Museum,3 Lois Gottsch Gallery, 2011-2012). Wells insists that she wants others to attend to the experiences she knows to be alive in each of her quilts. Indeed, her quilts exude a spirit and energy that Wells characterizes as acts of expression that deserve attention on their own merits rather than being quickly categorized by style, tradition, or locale. Wells identifies herself as an artist, giving expression to her seeing, feeling, and making experiences as folk art, through the medium of quilts. She is wary of categorizations that too quickly gloss over the individual expression each quilt offers. As a self-taught African American quiltmaker and someone that distinguishes herself from other traditions, she seems keenly aware of the power and strength of her creating experiences as opportunities to negotiate self-understandings and give expression to these developing perspectives. A calling in Wells’ voice, alongside the forms these expressions each take, permeates the exhibit of her quilts as displayed in the gallery as a whole. It is a calling that invites viewers to enter into conversation with her and her quilts. Wells describes her quilts as being “big, bold, primitive, and unique” (Quilted Messages, International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lois Gottsch Gallery, 2011-2012). They are not traditional blocked or patchwork quilts and the unexpected big, bold, primitive, and unique designs are compelling. I find they draw me into their varied narratives of experiences, and the associated quilt titles suggest messages to me. The quilts evidence “the dialogic fabric of human life” (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 293). The narratives within the cloth invite further engagement with each one (see http://www.quiltstudy.org/exhibitions/online_ exhibitions/yvonne_wells/messages0.html.).