Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


African-American Quilt Drawings by Sarah Mary Taylor of the Delta

A pair of interesting drawings by African-American Quilter Sarah Mary Taylor of Yazoo City, Mississippi.  Circa 1993.  Known widely for her quilts, I suspect she may have done several hundred drawings before passing on.  These are surprising for their unusual form.  Most of the drawings I have seen were designs based on her standard, repeated quilt figures.  Hands, human figures and animals.  I've always wondered if anyone has her original templates for quilting…and if she even used them!  Free-hand pieces here represent a house (with a figure inside tucked under a quilt?) and numerous irregular squares.  If Ms. Taylor made a "house" quilt, it would look more like this drawing than the traditional quilter's house form or pattern.  Lots of crosshatching.  The floating figure on the other piece?  A melon abstraction within four corners.  Cosmogram?

The house at the time I visited was not green.  Then, her tiny place was painted a bright orange, and I cribbed a photo from wikipedia commons (photo by Terry Nowell) I have no idea how many houses she lived in, but I do know she had five husbands over her long life.  It was hard to keep a family together in the Black south of the early 20th century.
Ms. Taylor was born near Betonia, Mississippi in 1916.  A cook, a nanny and a field hand.  Also from Betonia at the same time?  Skip James.  A blues musician of staggering talent who would have been performing around the area at the same time.  Sarah would have been 14 at the peak of his depression-era career.  Betonia had a population of less than 200 in 1900, and has only 500 now. Could she have missed him busking?  He recorded a dozen or so sides in 1931 then went missing until musician John Fahey and others located him in the 1960s.

This is deep Delta.  Betonia is  right down highway 49 from Yazoo.  I wish I had asked her if she remembered Skippy James.  Both come from the same place, after all.  The musician has the same root as the artist.  Same well.

The drawings are now, as far as I know, in private hands.  The one I gave my avid-quilting mother is lost.  

Two drawings by Sarah Mary Taylor circa 1993 Private collection

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