Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quilts for a new baby

The baby's mother is from India; the baby's father is from Canada. This appliqued and embroidered quilt shows a mix of animals associated with both countries. From top: Beaver, Tiger, Elephant, Cat, Snake, Cow, Fox, Bison, Monkey, Caribou, Bear, Moose.

A second quilt, meant more for everyday use was stitched from the remaining fabrics.

The Completed Art Quilt

The quilt has been on display November 15-December 6 in Owen Sound in the Women's House storefront window.

Here is an image of the completed quilt. The final title is "Blood and Roses - a Story Quilt"

A quilt turned out to be the ideal medium for this project. Quilts evoke the warmth and comfort of home and family. Quilts represent the means by which ordinary women have expressed their creativity. Quilting was often – and still remains – a social activity that allowed women to share their stories and to support one another. This quilt challenges these perspectives. It points to the sad truth that home is not always a sanctuary, that loving relationships can turn deadly and that our social networks and institutions don’t always protect us.

I started working on this project in 2010, when I collected written information contained in the ever growing coroners inventory of women murdered by an intimate partner. I then began creating images sparked by some of the reports: a capsized canoe, a house on fire, a burning car, a crashed minivan, a suitcase by the side of the road, pill bottles, a swimming pool, a dumpster, a tractor with bucket, a bathtub....

I keep a creative notebook in which I keep technical notes and comments on the progress of my various art projects. On March 10, 2011 I wrote:

“ The crazy quilt is taking shape. I created 12 squares, each containing an appliquéd centre with an image representing the deaths of the women. Each appliqué is on a plain background of black or drab olive. Crazy patches are from a limited selection of fabrics in a generally sombre palette, with flashes of white, rust, mustard and orange. All the fabric comes from my “stash” and some are recycled e.g. from a dress I made Emma when she was a teen, a jacket of mine, a skirt of my mother’s.. Two fabrics incorporate black roses, a fitting image that I think enhances the mourning component. I have now started hand stitching text around the edge of each centre block. The stitching is in off white to give some unity to the whole and to speak to the innocence of the murdered women.”

The quilt was completed in June 2011 when I recorded my decision on the title Blood and Roses, partly as an ironic reference to the “Bread and Roses" anthem. I’m proud to have spent all those hours and months creating this memorial. I only hope it both honours the women and encourages us all to keep working to end such tragedies.

The quilt has been selected for display at FiberPhiladelphia’s 2012 “Outside/Inside the Box “ exhibition March 2-April 14, 2012.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Work in Progress. An Art Quilt.

I've been on the Board of Directors of my local women's shelter for the past 4 years. Every year we set up an installation - "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Shoes" - in various public places in the community. Pairs of shoes, each representing a woman (and sometimes her children) are displayed along with information about her situation and the manner of her death. Unfortunately every year new pairs of shoes are added to the display. Despite our best efforts, women and children continue to die at the hands of their intimate partners.

I've long been haunted by some of the images evoked in the installation and have thought long and hard about how to to present them. I won't describe the thought process here, but the concept of "a terrible beauty" led me to plan a crazy quilt. Viewed from a distance it will look like a fairly traditional quilt. Approach it and you will see embedded images that represent 12 of the women. The intent is to create something beautiful that will honour these women without glossing over the disturbing reality.

A work in progress: 12 appliqued images each in a pieced block. Each block approximately 18" square.

A work in progress: Detail of block. Applique, hand and machine stitching.

Right now the piece is set up on quilt frames while I work on hand quilting and beading some sections. No predictions as to how long this phase will take.....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Shadow Box for Literacy

Here is this year's contribution to the "Articles" invitational show and sale of shadow boxes on behalf of youth literacy. As this show is being held in conjunction with a showing of the movie "Waterlife" it seemed appropriate to explore the theme of the Great Lakes environment. I also wanted to inject something related to literacy. My train of thought brought me back to favourite book from my childhood: Paddle-to-the-Sea. What would he see if he retraced his route through Lake Huron in 2011?

The image inside the box is printed onto lightweight cotton canvas. Using a scanned replica antique map as a background, I added a variety of manipulated digital images representing some current Great Lakes issues: wind turbines, nuclear power development, asian carp, zebra mussels and industrial pollution. There is also an image of the late Dudley George placed near the site of his death at Ipperwash. The route that Paddle-to-the-Sea might have taken in 2011 is hand embroidered in metallic thread.

Here is the canvas, mounted in the box. The box is painted with acrylic paint and sealed with varathane.

Next the "frame" is added to the map.

The birchbark canoe, made from bark fallen from my neighbour's tree, stitched with sewing thread and varathaned.

Finally, Paddles' canoe is installed and the shadowbox is complete.