In the winter, after the leaves fall, our first floor is flooded with light. It’s one of the things I like most about this house.
One day last week, when I was feeling a little at odds with myself (I can’t remember why), I found myself thinking, “But this light, I get. This light doesn’t confuse me.”
How to address the brutal history of slavery in a quilt DOES confuse me. For one thing, there is the question — is this my story to tell? That query triggers the question – does that matter, and if so, how? More on those thoughts later.
The working title for this ‘Trayvon Martin’ quilt is: Strange Fruit, triggered by an email conversation with the fiber artist, Kit Lang. Ms. Lang responded to the Zimmerman acquittal with two quilts, one of which she titled “Strange Fruit – Stand Your Ground.” You can see it here.
Being reminded of that haunting Billie Holiday song informed the choice of the fabrics printed with trees and vines. The ship in the lower right references slave ships, as does the brown batik with horizontal striping.
I got away from the initial idea of a white house with a white fence beyond which a black boy could not safely go. One of the other Martin quilts may preserve and explore that initial design impulse.
Blogged about earlier here “White House and Privilege” and here “Privilege Progression – quilt slide show“.
I have been reading your posts for a while, but I don’t think I have left a comment before. Thank you for sharing Ms Lang’s very moving post. You ask, is this my story to tell? My answer to that would be, it may not ‘be your story’, but a story often needs an narrator and if a story/history does not get told or passed on, how are others ever going to try to understand or learn from what has happened in the past? (and still happening in parts of the world!)
Jenny – thank you for taking the time to comment, and especially in an encouraging way. After seeing “12 Years a Slave” (and being so, so impressed), I have been thinking about how race trumps nationality with this material… director Steve McQueen says slavery is ‘THE American story’ (I agree) and clearly it makes an important difference to the authentic feel of the film that both he and the writer are black (compare: Django Unchained — no further comment — for now, anyway).
OK, so far, so good, and probably not the least bit controversial (except to Tarantino fans). But this might be — what of the fact that McQueen is NOT American?! I’m not sure I would bring this up if this weren’t already on my mind. McQueen tells an important story, using original sources — a story that needs telling and telling again. It would be too bad if he told himself ‘I can’t explore this narrative because I’m not American’. But can’t I wonder about how and whether his not being American mattered in any way?
I don’t know…. probably unanswerable, except to come back to the idea that race trumps nationality… but maybe I can take note that telling THE American story (and telling it really, really well) does not necessarily require that one be American.
the artist offers a point of view via the direct line from the eyes & heart out through the hands & good art transcends the boundaries
what a nice way to put this, Mo. Your comment got me to wondering if most artists count empathy as one of the driving forces of their work? I’m thinking: maybe not all; but lots?
empathy heart soul the ineffable what we can’t say in words… that’s what has to come out through the hands
oh & what tells me I am going the wrong way is when it is all too clever by half
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