Thursday, September 24, 2015

Last Words at the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum in Carrollton, GA

(Above:  Last Words, Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum, Carrollton, GA.  This is the vignette I created for the entry room.  It is in this area that the gift shop and main desk are located.)

I am so honored to be in Carrollton, Georgia this week.  Not only did I get to totally stage my exhibition, Last Words, at the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum but I am also teaching a two-day workshop at the Cultural Arts Center.  Last night I presented a "trunk show" to the public.  Local quilt guilds, art groups, scout troops, and other organizations were invited.  It was publicized in by the area media.  This resulted in plenty of interested people attending. Afterwards, we were all treated to a guided tour of the nearby cemetery.  Experts in gravestone iconography and regional history pointed out important, carved motifs and the final resting places of personalities as diverse as politicians, philanthropists, and a freed slave who possessed such rare culinary skills that the community pitched in to erect an angelic sculpture.  It was terrific!

(Above:  The is the wall immediately to the left of the main doorway into the central room.)

The museum is celebrating its third anniversary.  It is a big deal ... especially since the success of this non-profit means it is bursting at the seams and (once again) needing additional space in which to store its permanent collection, vast library, and all the other things needed to fulfill its educational and historical mission.  I really hope that my show helps the expansion efforts!

Let me take you on a little, virtual tour of my show!  After entering the central room and turning immediately to the left, one walls down the wall of quilts toward Death Bed, the suspended piece above.  The center of the room includes approximately 43 sheer chiffon banners on which I've free-motion stitched epitaphs collected from all sorts of cemeteries.

Here is Death Bed (suspended) ... and a little further is a black theater curtain on which I hung one my Angels in Mourning Series pieces, After the Toils of Life.

In front of the black theater curtain is a small kneeler on which I placed one of my altered Victorian photo albums and two church offering plates filled with wrapped-and-stitched wooden thread spools.

I placed the other two offering plates on the floor ... filling each with additional spools.

I really loved the look toward this kneeler from deep inside the maze of epitaph banners.

Suspended in the other, nearby corner is At Rest.  This piece was originally designed and stitched to be suspended as it is presented here.  However, until this week, it has never actually been suspended.  I'm particularly pleased to present this densely stitched piece "in the round".

Here's a view of At Rest from the side ... with Some Day We Will Understand hanging on the back wall. 

Here's a view looking back toward At Rest ... showing the long wall of grave rubbing art quilts.

Technically, Handed Down (the piece with the elegant, long red opera gloves) is not a grave rubbing art quilt.  Yet, it has all the same concepts of remembrance, personal legacy, and a hope of a potential family heirloom as all the other quilts ... plus, it is the piece featured on the exhibition posters.

When looking in the opposite direction ... over Handed Down ... toward the last wall, one can see the doorway into the second, smaller room at the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum.

Here's another view!

Before going into the second room, here's a view of the final wall in the central area.  In the corner is a chair for a museum docent and a small table on which additional information and "white gloves" are made available to the public.

There's also a nice bench alongside this wall ... and a basket with more "white gloves".  My signage includes a statement allowing visitors to peek behind each art quilt.  Almost all the work includes additional, vintage linens on the reverse.  It's like a "little secret".

Behind the docent's chair is this corner ... including Milestone (altered wedding dress), Forever (one which appear Steve's name and my own with our birth years ... a tribute to our marriage), and two other grave rubbing art quilts.

All four walls are lined with a heavy row of artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters.  For me, this adds the color found in a real cemetery, eliminates the hard 90 angle of floor and wall ... softening the austere interior into a more natural surface underfoot, and serves as a quiet reminder of all the people who brought tokens of remembrance to a loved one.

The center of the space is equally trans-formative and contemplative.  The banners move slightly with any movement (even the air-conditioning system).  The words hang ghostly in the air.  The view across the gallery is slightly obscured. 

Some of the epitaphs are very long.  Some are ancient.  Some were etched within the past few years.  One can't help to read a few words ... which draws a viewer into reading the entire passage.

Each banner is two-sided because I intentionally alternated the statements orientation from one side to the other.

Now ... into the smaller room.  Here is The Book of the Dead, a 696-page altered sketch book filled with watercolored pages on which collected epitaphs are written in calligraphy.  There are over 1200 entries ... each one originally scribbled in my notebook while standing in front of an actual burial site.  More grave rubbing art quilts hang on the wall behind the altered Victrola on which the book's lectern sits.

The room is intimate and includes a bookcase with some of the museum's collection.

Here's one wall ...

... and the other wall.

There are a total of six, altered Victorian photo albums.  One is on the kneeler.  One is on the public response piece (scroll down!), three are on the shelves of the Victrola, and one is was screwed onto an old plant stand at the suggestion of one of the museum's dedicated volunteers.  It is perfect! This entire exhibit has included plenty of correspondence to make it as wonderful as it is!

Another museum staff person suggested an idea for a "public response" piece.  Through emails we brain-stormed and came up with this!  It is an altered version of my Pardoning Altar.  Now, however, it isn't about forgiveness but serves as a place for visitors to leave a written message, comments, or their "last words".  It sits just outside the second, smaller room.  I've very pleased to provide this location for audience participation and can't wait to read the provided index cards!

The sixth altered Victorian photo album sits on the wide ledge with a sign and also an acrylic box for additional comment cards!  How wonderful!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 


Lesley Turner said...

Overwhelmingly wonderful display of your work. Thank you for the tour.

Wanda said...

This was like a personal tour! Wonderful post. I am very glad that there are benches because I think I would need to sit down and take it all in. Well, take it ALL in is maybe not the right way to say it because "IT" is all the same, and yet very different. Every piece, every single thing is its own and yet, part of it ALL. Wow...I could get very deeply and emotionally involved in this. Congratulations and putting it all in such a wonderful, inviting and intense manner.

Mary Marcotte said...

What an interesting display. I really like the sheer panels with the writings (sorry, I've forgotten the titles) they had me thinking of shrouds, which brings so many other motifs and images to mind. Your combination of death and quilts is very unique yet not at all morbid. We use quilts to remember people all the time. Then to add a cemetery tour to the evening...brilliant move! I am really impressed with how well everything seems to work hand-in-hand. Great work from concept to show!

Sandy said...

Looks really good Susan!
I thought of you today. I was doing a talk about my 'fantasticals' - gowns and quilts at a Regional Lace Day. They had a couple boxes of amazing lace collected by a lady who sadly died and now they were selling the pieces 50p each! I bought some pieces I knew I could use on garments. But some were very vintage - like early Victorian etc. I would have bought more to rescue it if I had the money. But I am sure why they were selling at such a low price was because they all have their own stashes like it. I could hear you saying phrases from your TED talk! So, I will use it and not keep it precious!