Anthony Meier Online Main Site
Skip to content

ROSIE LEE TOMPKINS

15 January - 19 February 2021

 

Anthony Meier Fine Arts is pleased to present a solo exhibition of never-before-seen works by renowned American artist, Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936–2006), considered one of the greatest quiltmakers of all times, and one of the century’s greatest artists.

 

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton sheeting, cotton polyester, acrylic yarn

74 1/8 x 42 inches

188.3 x 106.7 cm

SOLD

 

 

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton sheeting, cotton polyester, acrylic yarn

74 1/8 x 42 inches

188.3 x 106.7 cm

SOLD

 

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

 

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

 

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton sheeting, cotton polyester, acrylic yarn

74 1/8 x 42 inches

188.3 x 106.7 cm

SOLD

 

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins is the pseudonym of quilter Effie Mae Howard, who carefully guarded her privacy after her rise to national prominence in the late 1990s. Born on 6 September 1936 to a sharecropping family in southeastern Arkansas, she learned quilting from her mother as a child but did not begin to practice the craft seriously until the 1980s, when she was living in the Bay Area city of Richmond. Tompkins was a devout member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and credited God with her uncanny sense of color. Many of her quilts were made with family members or friends in mind, and can be seen as prayers on their behalf, including her sons.

"Perhaps the most unusual work in the exhibition is an untitled piece that has been dated as 2005-06, the final years of Tompkins’ life. This eclectic work is unified by a bright red fabric that plays a dual role as a backing for a variety of pieced blocks and as a surface for embroidery and appliqué. The pieced blocks on the left side are comprised of men’s ties arranged in a variety of irregular rectangles. By leaving areas of backing fabric visible between the blocks and highlighting their edges with bright green thread—essentially combining quilting and appliqué—Tompkins foregrounds quilting as a visual incident or motif."

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2005-2006

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Polyester mens' ties, cotton fabric, denim, Polyester Christmas print, cotton thread

17 x 36 1/2 inches

43.2 x 92.7 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2005-2006

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Polyester mens' ties, cotton fabric, denim, Polyester Christmas print, cotton thread

17 x 36 1/2 inches

43.2 x 92.7 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2005-2006 verso

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Verso

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2005-2006

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2005-2006

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2005-2006

Polyester mens' ties, cotton fabric, denim, Polyester Christmas print, cotton thread

17 x 36 1/2 inches

43.2 x 92.7 cm

SOLD

Inquire

Few of Tompkins’ quilts conform to the traditional scale of a bed covering, a byproduct of the conceptual logic inherent in each piece. Her quilts are characterized by the variation in scale of the triangles and squares used in her patterns, creating “asymmetrical forms that pull, crumble, and bend,” says Rinder. Tompkins “transformed everything she touched with her improvisatory piecing and unerring sense of color, composition and scale,” notes critic Roberta Smith. “In the still-unfolding field of African-American quilt-making, she has no equal.”

"Formally, this quilt is a mind-bending amalgam of half-squares of various sizes, strips, and a border made in part from a whole American flag that has been used (upside down) as the backing for the quilt. Tompkins cleverly rhymes the stripes of the found flag with the strip motif incorporated into the quilt design. On the right-hand side, she added a vertical red stripe to serve as a striking background for a single orange cross which extends just beyond the frame of the quilt itself."

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton khaki sateen (man's shirt), cotton knit, nylon flag, cotton thread. Backed with nylon flag (synthetic)

29 x 55 1/2 inches

73.7 x 141 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton khaki sateen (man's shirt), cotton knit, nylon flag, cotton thread. Backed with nylon flag (synthetic)

29 x 55 1/2 inches

73.7 x 141 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d. verso

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Verso

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton khaki sateen (man's shirt), cotton knit, nylon flag, cotton thread. Backed with nylon flag (synthetic)

29 x 55 1/2 inches

73.7 x 141 cm

SOLD

Inquire

"The juxtaposition of colored fabrics in various hues with black and white patterned pieces gives an effect of flickering light playing across the surface of the work, like a cubist interior seen in candlelight. "

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Wool challis, velvet, velveteen, panné velvet, cotton batik, woven blanket, cotton gingham heavy cotton knit, printed cotton (probably Indian bedspread), rip-stop nylon, plaid cotton flannel, cotton knit garment, gold on black metallic print (synthetic), gold on black metallic woven (synthetic), commercially embroidered cotton. Backed by wool challis with wool yarn and cotton thread. 

33 1/4 x 29 3/4 inches

84.5 x 75.6 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Wool challis, velvet, velveteen, panné velvet, cotton batik, woven blanket, cotton gingham heavy cotton knit, printed cotton (probably Indian bedspread), rip-stop nylon, plaid cotton flannel, cotton knit garment, gold on black metallic print (synthetic), gold on black metallic woven (synthetic), commercially embroidered cotton. Backed by wool challis with wool yarn and cotton thread. 

33 1/4 x 29 3/4 inches

84.5 x 75.6 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Verso

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Wool challis, velvet, velveteen, panné velvet, cotton batik, woven blanket, cotton gingham heavy cotton knit, printed cotton (probably Indian bedspread), rip-stop nylon, plaid cotton flannel, cotton knit garment, gold on black metallic print (synthetic), gold on black metallic woven (synthetic), commercially embroidered cotton. Backed by wool challis with wool yarn and cotton thread. 

33 1/4 x 29 3/4 inches

84.5 x 75.6 cm

SOLD

Inquire

"The colors of the quilt come close to what Tompkins thought of as her personal palette: orange, yellow and purple. Here, orange predominates, and purple is only seen in indistinct flecks embedded in the black fabric. Although yellow doesn’t appear, the role of this lighter hue is played by the peach colored squares. As in the undergarments quilt, this work juxtaposes areas of relative order with others in which the checkerboard logic of the design seems to go strangely awry. This quilt is comprised of precisely 36 pieces of fabric, making concrete (and visible) one of the numbers most important to Tompkins, the year of her birth."

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2004

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2004

Polyester double knit, wool acrylic blend, cotton broadcloth (backing), wool yarn

24 x 34 inches

61 x 86.4 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2004

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2004

Polyester double knit, wool acrylic blend, cotton broadcloth (backing), wool yarn

24 x 34 inches

61 x 86.4 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2004

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2004

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, 2004

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2004

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, 2004

Polyester double knit, wool acrylic blend, cotton broadcloth (backing), wool yarn

24 x 34 inches

61 x 86.4 cm

SOLD

Inquire

"There is something quite sculptural about these quilts that refuse to lay flat let alone maintain a polite rectilinearity. It is clear from the wide variations in the size and dimensions of her works that Tompkins was guided not by the traditional physical requirements of a quilt but by the visual and conceptual logic inherent in each piece she made."

- Lawrence Rinder

"The tension between order and disorder is characteristic of her work and it has been suggested that this approach may be a conscious symbolization of Tompkins’ sometimes fragile emotional state. There are other clues that this work is to some degree a self-portrait. Most obviously, it includes her name and birthdate embroidered across the bottom."

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton undergarments with elastic, cotton yarn

22 1/4 x 32 inches

56.5 x 81.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton undergarments with elastic, cotton yarn

22 1/4 x 32 inches

56.5 x 81.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled n.d.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, n.d.

Cotton undergarments with elastic, cotton yarn

22 1/4 x 32 inches

56.5 x 81.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire

"Tompkins’ choice of fabrics here is characteristically eccentric, ranging from a traditional black and white houndstooth to a festive Christmas design to a backing printed with the Budweiser logo that peeks around the edge as a provocative, decorative frame. A scattering of white yarn ties helps visually to unify this exceptionally complex composition."

- Lawrence Rinder

Content

Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, ca. 1974

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Polyester double knit, acrylic yarn, crepe print, synthetic sheer polyester tablecloth, muslin, shot cotton, nylon-spandex kit, acrylic sweater knit, poly-cotton linen blend, polyester crepe, polyester woven cotton Christmas print, cotton thread, backed with cotton advertising print

62 1/4 x 34 3/4 inches

158.1 x 88.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, ca. 1974

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Polyester double knit, acrylic yarn, crepe print, synthetic sheer polyester tablecloth, muslin, shot cotton, nylon-spandex kit, acrylic sweater knit, poly-cotton linen blend, polyester crepe, polyester woven cotton Christmas print, cotton thread, backed with cotton advertising print

62 1/4 x 34 3/4 inches

158.1 x 88.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, ca. 1974 verso

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Verso

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, ca. 1974

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire
Rosie Lee Tompkins Untitled, ca. 1974

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Detail view

SOLD

Inquire

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Untitled, ca. 1974

Polyester double knit, acrylic yarn, crepe print, synthetic sheer polyester tablecloth, muslin, shot cotton, nylon-spandex kit, acrylic sweater knit, poly-cotton linen blend, polyester crepe, polyester woven cotton Christmas print, cotton thread, backed with cotton advertising print

62 1/4 x 34 3/4 inches

158.1 x 88.3 cm

SOLD

Inquire

“I think it’s because I love them so much that God let me see all these different colors,” Tompkins once said of her patchworks. “I hope they spread a lot of love.”



 

Rosie Lee Tompkins portrait

Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936–2006) is widely considered one of the most brilliant and inventive quiltmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Her work is not only recognized within the context of quilting, but celebrated among the great American artistic achievements of our time. Born Effie Mae Howard in 1936 in Arkansas, the artist later adopted the pseudonym Rosie Lee Tompkins. She learned quilting from her mother as a child but did not begin to practice the craft seriously until the 1980s, when she was living in the Bay Area city of Richmond.  Tompkins made quilts with a very personal meaning, often addressing her own spirituality and to honor beloved family members. She employed a wide variety of traditional patterns, including half-squares, medallions, and yo-yos, exploring and adapting these approaches through her individual sensibility and integrating such favorite fabrics as velvet, artificial fur, and various types of glittery material. She also frequently incorporated embroidery—stitching words and citations of Christian scripture—as well as printed images on recycled clothes, which suggest the artist’s commentary on contemporary social, political, and cultural events.

Limited appointments available - please email gallery@anthonymeierfinearts.com to make an appointment.


To protect our visitors and staff, and to mitigate exposure to COVID-19, face coverings are required for entry and must be worn at all times. Masks and hand sanitizer will be offered at the door and we ask that social distancing be observed throughout the gallery. The exhibition is open by appointment only; please contact the gallery to make an appointment. 

Downloadable Media

"ROSIE LEE TOMPKINS: SEVEN QUILTS" by LAWRENCE RINDER

ROSIE LEE TOMPKINS: SEVEN QUILTS

by Lawrence Rinder

 

Rosie Lee Tompkins, who is considered by some to be the greatest quilter who ever lived, rarely made a quilt. That is because she was almost exclusively concerned with pieced tops, the sewn together pieces of fabric that form the top layer of a traditional quilt. To “quilt” is to add an inner batting and backing to the pieced top, giving the textile substance, strength and greater capacity for warmth. Tompkins, however, was primarily focused on the visual (and spiritual) aspects of her works, not their everyday functionality. Of her over five hundred works, the vast majority were either quilted by others (women whom Tompkins never met) or left unquilted.

 

So, it is a rare opportunity to see, in this exhibition, seven textiles that Tompkins quilted herself. In these works, we can appreciate several distinctive characteristics of her quilting. For most of these pieces, Tompkins created a border by folding the edge of the backing fabric so that it forms a frame around the pieced top; thus, the backing material (its color, pattern, imagery, texture) becomes an essential element of the composition. When Tompkins quilted, she often preferred the technique known as “tying” in which the three layers of the quilt are connected by means of a length of yarn that ties them together. In Tompkins’ quilts, these ebullient colored ties are welcomed as an element of visual interest in themselves, bright accents that add dynamic energy even as they serve as an all-over, unifying motif.

 

Click the button below to download the full essay.

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

 

Rosie Lee Tompkins 
January 15 – February 19, 2021

 

On January 15th, ​Anthony Meier Fine Arts will present a solo exhibition of never-before-seen works by renowned American artist ​Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936–2006), considered one of the greatest quiltmakers of all times, and one of the century’s greatest artists.  

 


The seven artworks included in the exhibition date from 1974 to 2006, the year of the artist’s death. This significant exhibition coincides with a major retrospective of her work at the ​Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive​, and includes a newly commissioned essay by ​Lawrence ​Rinder​, the longtime champion of Tompkins and former Director of the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive.  

 


Rosie Lee Tompkins is the pseudonym of quilter ​Effie Mae Howard​, who carefully guarded her privacy after her rise to national prominence in the late 1990s. Born on September 6, 1936 to a sharecropping family in southeastern Arkansas, she learned quilting from her mother as a child but did not begin to practice the craft seriously until the 1980s, when she was living in the Bay Area city of Richmond. Tompkins was a devout member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and credited God with her uncanny sense of color. Many of her quilts were made with family members or friends in mind, and can be seen as prayers on their behalf, including her sons. 

 

Click the button below to read the full press release.