Caroline Z. Hurley’s Gee’s Bend–Inspired, Stitched-Together Paintings

Caroline Z. Hurley is best known for her block-printed quilts, tablecloths, blankets, and fabrics by the yard, but if you follow Hurley on Instagram, you know that painting is also a huge part of the Brooklyn-based artist’s practice. Her newest works combine elements of both mediums, using vintage fabrics or cottons woven by hand by artisans in Oaxaca as the base for painted and stitched-together canvases. Hurley begins the process by dyeing her fabrics with beets, teas, onion peels, and kitchen scraps or by laying out fabric on her studio floor and dripping, brushing, and pouring paint all over its surface. She then rips the fabric into shapes — “reminding myself (and the fabric) that nothing is permanent,” she says, and then slowly pieces them back together over a wooden frame. (We particularly love the hosiery-esque quality of the sheer panels.)

Hurley is heavily inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend, but these days, she says, “the work brings me back to Memphis, where I was born and raised. I usually don’t think too much about Memphis but my mind is flooded with memories of the South. Maybe it was the drive back home after my father died. Or maybe it’s the energy in the streets that recalls the marches of the Civil Rights Movement. Or maybe it’s because I want to give my baby a sense of her history. It’s all the little things: soft morning air before the sun starts beating down, gospel songs and baptist choirs, my dad’s laugh, wildflowers on back roads, fireflies before the sun sets, the first time my baby kicked,  cotton fields that look like snow in September. It’s the journey of how all the pieces land together. And it’s my effort to sew up the spaces in-between.”

Some of the smaller pieces below have sold out, but Hurley will be updating her webshop again in the next few weeks. Fifteen percent of all of the proceeds from this collection are being donated to Souls Grown Deep, an organization dedicated to promoting the work of Black Southern artists and investing in their communities through racial justice, economic empowerment and educational advancement.

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