Sunday, June 30, 2019

We Had a Dream: Equality

 (Above: We Had a Dream: Equality. 50" x 30". Digital images on fabric with hand quilting. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last December I was contacted with an invitation to submit an art quilt for consideration for an upcoming, traveling exhibition called A Better World: Heroes Working for the Greater Good.  The show is the brain-child of Susan Brubaker Knapp and Lyric Montgomery Kinard, two extremely well known quilt artists.  This was an opportunity to create a brand new piece specifically measuring 50" x 30" but it did not come with a guarantee.  The exhibition was to be a juried one.  Sure, all those artists accepting the invitation would have their work on the group's website, but not every quilt would be accepted into the actual traveling show. Also, artists weren't allow to blog or share their works on websites or social media until after the jurying process was complete.  With these strict requirements, I might not have accepted the invitation, but I had already acquired these anonymous, vintage photographs.  I had already scanned them and ordered the fabric. The invitation seemed perfectly timed.  It made me focus more closely on a concept and it determined the size of the finished piece.

 (Above:  Me stitching on my piece at the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri.)

Best of all, this invitation came at a time when I had a two-month art residency coming up.  I created the entire work at the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri. This "gift of time" allowed me to hand-stitch the piece.  Had I been at home, juggling my "day job" and my ordinary life, I might have machine stitched it.  Honestly, hand stitching is the better approach, visually and especially conceptually.

 (Above:  The piece on one of the tables at Osage Arts Community.)

Amazingly, one of the tables in the Osage Arts Community's common room was the most perfect size on which to work.  I spent hours and hours quietly stitching.  I was able to show the piece to other resident artists and visiting poets, but until this past week, I wasn't able to share the piece on my blog of Facebook page. 

 (Above and below:  Details.)

I submitted my finished application long before the June 15th deadline and have been waiting for the jurying results ever since.  Happily, the news I most wanted to hear came!  The piece has been ACCEPTED into the traveling show which debuts as a special exhibit at the International Quilt Market and Festival, October 26 - November 3, 2019.  From there the show goes to these locations:  The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, VA (Feb. 27  - Mar. 1, 2020); The New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA (Apr. 8 - July 12, 2020); The Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC (Aug. 4 - Sept. 28, 2020); The Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, CA (Oct. 15 - 18, 2020) and finally to Visions Art Museum in San Diego, CA (Jan. 15 - Apr. 3, 2022).  I am finally able to share the artwork!

The application called for an essay to accompany each piece.  This is what I wrote:

Thousands of African-Americans anonymously built much of the South. These unsung heroes toiled at first in slavery and later under an economically unjust system. Their architectural contributions include The White House, Monticello, Mount Vernon, dozens of Southern plantation houses, and the University of South Carolina's Horseshoe, the oldest part of the campus which is one mile from my home. In the 20th century, skilled African-American workers did not enjoy compensation equal to their white counterpoints. They installed water fountains at which they were not allowed to drink, cleaned hotel rooms in which they couldn't stay, and raised other people's children who went to better schools than their own. Women of color rarely were paid adequately.  Today many institutions struggle with decisions regarding Confederate era monuments and are seeking ways to acknowledge the significant roles of anonymous slave laborers and their descendants. This is an era trying to overcome the injustices of Jim Crow segregation laws. This art quilt pays homage to those who lived in hope that their work would one day bring about this better world. To dream of equality is the American Dream. To dream in the face of adversity is to be a hero.

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