Senior Capstone for Studio Art
Q: What am I working on right now?
A: My love of teaching and passion for creating art have merged together this semester in the form of a story quilt entitled, Lynchings, Witch Hunts, and Injustice–a mosaic of emotional and controversial images and text. Images of Troy Davis, Emmett Till, Tyler Clementi, Michael Jackson, Patsy Ramsey and others accompany verbal language that express a racist and prejudicial world. Combining images and text invite the viewer to become an informed participant in today’s challenging social climate.
Specific victims of racism and those who have been slain by hate groups (Emmett Till) or a judicial system without justice (Troy Davis) or those vilified by mainstream media in a rush to judgment or hate groups for simply daring to be different (Michael Jackson and Patsy Ramsey). Victims of Cyber bullying and having people pry into personal matters for living an alternative lifestyle to the point of committing suicide (Megan Meiers and Tyler Clementi). Many have had to live their lives under a microscope being practically hunted down by cameras and heavily edited images and footage which is used to negatively sway the public’s opinion.
These images will be accompanied by hateful words that taint our world with racism and prejudice. Other text will include lyrics to Billie Holiday’s, “Strange Fruit” which details a horrid scene of young black men hanging from a poplar tree—something she encountered while on tour in the southern states of this country. These elements combine to encourage us to become more than viewers but informed participants who change and challenge the social climate of today and the past so that the same atrocities will not burden future generations.
With millions believing that we have come a long way in improving race relations it is the intention of the artist to show that this country has quite a distance to go as far as dealing with hatred that spans beyond the borders of race. We are quick to seek out, judge and accuse innocent people simply because there may be something about them that is different. America should pride itself on individuality and leadership but, as of late, it has become a place where fear and politics are used as weapons of conformity.
The first block that I am working on for this quilt is formed by dissecting images of Troy Davis and various news articles about him and arranging the pieces so that they form the shades of gray necessary for the Log Cabin pattern. From a distance, it will read as a traditional quilt but upon closer inspection the viewer will gain bits and pieces of a larger story that unfolds with each additional Log Cabin pattern.
I am also planning to capture the completed quilt in a photographic image that will be the center of a website that will hotlink each square to summaries, source images and text as well as further historical data about each person or incident.
It is my hope that this project is the first in a series of quilts that will focus on the culture of inhumanity and humankind’s need to dominate others to the point of injury or death. Again I plan to use text and pieced together images but this time in the form of an appliqué’ portrait quilt where each segment will be hot linked to further resources about the person who is the subject of the quilt. I think I’ll start with Sojourner Truth.
The crafting and planning of each Log Cabin square has proved challenging. First of all, I had to learn the different parts of the sewing machine and then I had to learn how to use the machine! The images are coming together slowly but I need to hone them so that the subject of each square is more evident to the viewer.
Last week I decided to pin my finished squares to my studio walls and photograph them. I then decided to place them in a configuration that formed a partial pattern that intrigued me. I will take the suggestions of my peers and fellow artists and include the use of the fabric pen on more areas. Overall, I am enjoying the process of creating this piece.
Each completed quilt block has been digitally manipulated in Photoshop to create a collage. Some strips contain fabric strips which were directly printed on and others have images that applied with special heat transfer papers. I have used metallic gold and silver markers to write additional text as well as draw in many of the blocks.
The purpose of this quilt is to serve as a memorial and is my effort to pay homage to these victims and to encourage us to become more than viewers but informed participants who challenge and change the social climate of today so that the same atrocities of the past will not burden future generations.
The materials proved to be quite interesting and, at times, problematic. I learned to work with each fabric and make adjustments in my approach and treatment of them as opposed to trying to force them to do what I expected them to. This meant having to use the iron at a lower heat setting in some instances which meant a transfer that normally would take three minutes could take as long as twenty minutes. Also, I had to abandon ironing each square as it was completed as I would in a typical quilt as the images and text would either melt or smear so I had to settle for a few wrinkles and weird angles in the completed quilt. After settling on the idea that this is more of a study for future quilts, I was able to relax and enjoy the process of creating. This was a pivotal moment for me because up to this point this project was proving to be quite a thorn in my side.