One of the things I love about this quilt square is how it captures both the chaotic rupture of grief and the renewing power of hope. Look at the way Dana combined neat, orderly elements with loose and ‘messy’ ones. The contrast speaks volumes.
The couched red threads on the left speak to blood, disorder, hate, and loss. They scramble and defy the cool, ordered grid below. The purple cloud of gauze has the visual feel of smoke or staining. It spreads across the surface and behind the heart. Looking at it, we wonder: is the damage done? How much further will it spread? The heart is stained and rent. The edges of the central rip are frayed — in contrast to the neatly applied stitches that define the heart’s outer edges. These skillful choices elevate the image to something beyond the cliche of the broken heart. A five-petaled flower grows out of the place of brokenness and brings its purity into the messy tumble of red. It speaks to the enduring power of hope and also of forgiveness, an apt reference for a community living their Christian values. Like Liz, Dana dyed her strips especially for this project. Not only that, but she used a resist to spell out the words, “open our hearts” — words spoken by President Obama in his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Dana also used a resist to create a series of small hearts along one of the strips. She beautifully embroidered nine of them.
The floral embroidery in soft colors lends a sense of peace and purity to ‘the Nine’. The pretty uniformity of these hearts stands in contrast to the wild chaos opposite. And, it’s something else. It’s that this line of uniform and sweet encircled hearts suggest that in death, the Emanuel Nine became united — in faith and essence perhaps?
On the reverse side, with white thread on white linen, Dana stitched simply, “Remembering, June 17, 2015.” All in all, this is a beautifully executed and powerful visual statement about loss and hope. Please read more about Dana’s process, and enjoy her other beautiful dyeing and needlework and her extraordinary flare for table setting.
I swooned opening up the first of the squares to arrive for the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt. Mo Orkiszewski from Sydney, Australia made this one. (She is a multi-dimensional artist who blogs at It’s Crow Time). These photos do not do it justice — can you see how beautifully detailed it is? She cut red felt into open hearts and then outlined each with a thickly applied whip stitch that must have taken hours and hours to apply. Some of the stitches, she told me, were made while listening to President Obama’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Tears fell onto the cloth.
Delicate cross stitches and running stitches make, to this eye anyway, a map of sorts — all while connecting the strips and integrating the layers. Mo admitted to me that she had never quilted before. How, in five years (or more?) of following her blog, I wondered, could I not have noticed? What an amazing first effort!
Some of the indigo, as well as the tiny white bird print, were gifts from Jude (Spirit Cloth). The birds represent the birds of peace.
From an email exchange:
the backing cloth is an indigo dyed “daylight moon” that I bought from Glennis Dolce (Shibori Girl) in 2013, the half circle edge of the moon was stitched from the back at first but it looked wrong on the front so I took out a lot of the stitches, then restitched them with the raw indigo dyed silk in the final hour because the organza held the memory of the moon edge and made that ridge — the thought behind it is an abstracted heart with the 9 heart silhouettes forming the left hand side of the heart shape and the right hand side is the healing flow of the water of love that all hearts create
Do you see the row of wishbones along one edge? There are nine.
As someone with a special affinity for crows, feathers, and avian bones, Mo’s inclusion of bird bones was no surprise, and from her online photo, I thought they were REAL. It might have made sense — not just because of her affinities, but also because sometime last year I mailed her a baggie full of wishbones. Perhaps they are returning? I thought.
(No, as it turned out, and better cloth than bone for ease of construction later).
I love what they say here.. representing nine wishes for peace and healing for each of the nine deceased and their families, and perhaps also nine places for their souls to make wishes as well?
Her square will not be dedicated to one of the victims like the others. Instead, it represents the COLLECTIVE loss — the wound to Emanuel AME, and indeed, to the larger community.
To read more about the project, check out the category: “Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.
The project has taken on a life of its own well-beyond what I could have imagined. The email exchanges happening right now are not at all limited to housekeeping. It turns out that each participant NEEDED an outlet of some kind to express their heart ache and our emails have become places to share family histories, grief, and hope. I am learning so much and appreciating the participants so much! More on that down the road.
Last fall, I found this nest on the lawn of The Royall House and Slave Quarters, in Medford, Mass., after spending a night in the quarters as part of The Slave Dwelling Project (blogged about here). How could I NOT pick it up? And how could I not feel a little ambivalent about picking it up? It spoke to me of fragile lodgings and displaced homes. The act of scooping it up as “mine”, referenced ownership, improper and otherwise. But I took it. And housed it with care.
Last week, this bird doll and the nest and a reading of “The Logbooks – Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory” by Anne Farrow all came together. (I am almost done with the book and sooo wish I had heard Farrow speak recently at The Royall House. She authored another book called: “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery“). It felt proper to include some cloth that I dyed under Donna Hardy’s tutelage in South Carolina as part of The Sea Island Indigo Workshop (blogged about here and around there). Afterall, the indigo we used had provenance to the time of slavery, and the land itself had been worked by the enslaved. I marked 25 places in the hem, so that I could stitch blood-red beads — with each one standing for a decade of slavery. I poked around my studio and found some rusty bits, too. To keep the nest visible, I selected a wide-mouthed jar for the base. (The white cloth was rejected). A certain somebody, who likes all of my cloth projects, seems to have an especial fondness for this one. He stole it off the table and chewed it down in the dirty back yard twice, and stole it from the living room coffee table once, and managed to eat three or four of the silk beads during yet another unattended moment (silly me! — I have more, beads that is, and well, also, unfortunately, moments of not paying attention). The doll will get made. Finn seems dedicated to calling HER ownership into question as well! The next post will feature some content from “The Logbooks” and some ideas about dealing with this particular ambivalence.
Yesterday’s meal and company and fire were nice: delicious, warm, companionable. We had a couple of birthdays to celebrate, too.
In the quiet aftermath, I have resumed work on the second Middle Passage quilt. In this one, the top band of cohesive and colorful culture is very narrow and grows increasingly fragmented as one works down toward the bottom, where the ocean resides.
The pale green and white triangles are meant to signify the sails of the slave trading ships. The brown striped batik also signifies the slavers, but this time, the planking on the ships.
I forgot how much I like working this way.
Using photo apps to strip out color or intensify it can be a useful trick to find weaknesses in design.
I blogged about the first (and now complete) Middle Passage quilt here, but it occurs to me I have yet to post a good picture of it, finished and bound.
I’m afraid from now until the end of the year, my felt creatures will be hogging most of my time (not to mention Christmas), but in the New Year? Archives of everything! Binding and finishing at an amazing clip! With no significant writing time consumed!
In spite of terrible weather and competition from an afternoon Patriot’s game, the Global Africa opening reception at the Fitchburg Art Museum two weeks ago was wonderful and well-attended. The three of us above, plus the reporter Clennon King, were present — representing a mini-reunion from the Slave Dwelling Project‘s overnight at the Royall House Slave Quarters a month back*. Ellen Watters Sullivan would have been there too if the Cape hadn’t been suffering gale-force winds.
musician Solomon Murungu
“GLOBAL AFRICA: Creativity, Continuity and Change in African Art, an exhibition of classic, contemporary and commissioned art objects including masks, masquerades with videos, photographs, carved portraits, textiles, metal arts as currency, and an interactive Learning Lounge for all ages.” [From the Fitchburg Art Museum’s website].
In the foyer, Solomon Murungu’s music filled the cathedral-ceilinged space with haunting melodies which I later learned were traditional Shona ceremonial songs (read more about him here). It was amazing to me how much mood and sound came from his single instrument — the mbira. There was a buffet of delicious Brazilian food (my favorite? the fried plantains). And, African fabric was draped around almost as an afterthought.
Ife Franklin double exposed with shaman
What follows are pictures from the day** mixed in with other images that I took back in March at a Boston exhibit of Ife Franklin’s incredible work.
Ife Franklin emerging from Slave Cabin, Boston
this is the piece purchased by the Fitchburg Art Museum
The Boston Globe has featured Ife’s work many times. One particularly nice article is here. I won’t try to describe the spirit and integrity and visual pizzazz of her work, or I will never get this post up, but I encourage you to read about her. Not surprisingly, her indigo pieces are among my favorites.
The ‘Masquerade Ensemble’ by Cuban artist Nelson Montenegro (2013), has visual and ritual ties to Nigeria. I was taken by the patchwork, of course, and learned that the rafia cuffs and neck adornment ‘refer to sacred forests’. The bells at the waist were to dispel negative energy. The visiting shaman in the gallery also wore bells — around his ankles.