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Paulson Fontaine Press | Berkeley

Paulson Fontaine Press is pleased to present works by Radcliffe Bailey, Gee’s Bend quilters

Mary Lee Bendolph and Essie Bendolph Pettway, and Lonnie Holley. All four artists tell a

story from the south and have connected the press to the rich, visual heritage of the African


In Memoriam, the press will exhibit three etchings by Radcliffe Bailey (1968-2023.) Radcliffe

made his first prints with PFP in 1997 and continued to create over forty different monoprints

and editions over the years. The New York Times described Bailey’s work as being fueled by an

exploration of “Black Atlantic culture, the vital, nurturing, agitated link between Africa and the


In 2005, Bailey helped PFP realize the dream of making prints with the Gee’s Bend Quilters.

The booth will feature three etchings by mother and daughter quilters Mary Lee Bendolph and

Essie Bendolph Pettway, who embody the generational tradition of quilt making which has been

passed down and flourished in Gee’s Bend for the past 150 years. Matriarch quiltmaker, Mary

Lee (born 1935), descends from generations of accomplished quiltmakers in Gee’s Bend,

Alabama. Bendolph was one of many from Gee’s Bend who accompanied Martin Luther King,

Jr. in his march at Camden, Alabama in 1965. In 1999, she was profiled in a Los Angeles Times

Pulitzer Prize–winning article, “Crossing Over: Mary Lee’s Vision.”

Essie (born 1956), the only daughter of Mary Lee, began quilting at the age of eight. Although

trained by her mother, Essie developed a distinctive style and was producing accomplished

quilts while still in her teens. She has worked for many years making uniforms for the armed

forces. Her highly practiced sewing skills enable her to tackle complex quilt patterns and

introduce subtle optical effects into them. Over the years, she also has created a number of

quilts that incorporate camouflage patterns from her day job. Essie is among the last women in

Gee’s Bend to continue practicing her craft.

Snaggletooth, 2020 is Mary Lee’s fourteenth edition with the press since 2005, and Equal

Justice and Stacked Bricks are the first two etchings with Essie. Paulson Fontaine Press

donates 15% of the proceeds from the sale of these editions to The Equal Justice Initiative, a

non-profit organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, which provides legal representation to

prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, to poor prisoners without effective

representation, and to others who may have been denied a fair trial.

During her first project with the press, Mary Lee titled one of her etchings Lonnie Holley’s

Freedom. This was our introduction to Holley’s captivating work. Born in Alabama, Lonnie

Holley is the seventh of 27 children. Holley grew up fast, making his own way in the world by

pulling a wagon collecting other men’s trash, selling it or repurposing it. Lonnie Holley’s

biography—African American; Alabamian; trailblazing visual artist and musician—only begins to

describe the complexity of his artistic output. Paulson Fontaine Press will present two large collages by Lonnie that were created using remnants of woodblock prints he made at the press. The woodblock prints came about when Holley noticed an old piece of plywood in the studio. Lonnie grabbed the jigsaw and started cutting out figures, exposing his predilection for nested and overlapping human presences, chambered nautiluses of ancestry, community, and the promises of a future within the past.

In terms of process, the artist has also looked back to his art-making roots: the prints were

made from jigsawed plywood forms pieced together into a single wood “plate.” (Holley’s original

outdoor art environment, constructed in the 1980s and ’90s in Birmingham, was ringed by cutout

wooden forms much like these.) With these understatedly autobiographical prints, he has

reimagined a staple of yard art—the plywood cutout—as the basis for a distinctly fine-art

medium—the print.

Lonnie Holley will be performing at Artists Space on Saturday, February 17th at 5pm.

Artists Space

11 Cortlandt Alley, New York 10013


Lonnie Holley, Faith is the Aftermath of Destruction, 2019, Collage on museum board with spray paint. 60” x 104”


Lonnie Holley in the Paulson Fontaine Press Studio

Exhibiting Artists

Radcliffe Bailey, Mary Lee Bendolph, Essie Bendolph Pettway, Lonnie Holley

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