Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Persistence and Resilience

(Above:  Persistence, digital image on fabric with hand and machine stitching, beading, and trapunto. Framed:  25 1/2" x 17 3/4".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last December I embarked on a fiber adventure by accepting an invitation to create a 50" x 30" art quilt for a traveling exhibition called A Better World: Heroes Working for the Greater Good
At the time, I knew exactly what I wanted to make because I had already purchased several early 20th century photographs of anonymous African-Americans, scanned them, and had them digitally printed on fabric by Spoonflower.   I also knew that I had plenty of time in which to hand-stitch the work.  I made my piece while enjoying a two-month art residency with the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri. 

(Above:  Resilience, digital image on fabric with hand and machine stitching, beading, and trapunto. Framed:  25 1/2" x 17 3/4".)

What I didn't know for sure was how my digitally printed images would work together.  I didn't want to risk cutting into some of the fabric, ruining it, and not having those images in the final piece.  Thus (as a safe guard!), I ordered two pieces of fabric featuring my two favorite pictures ... two strong, confident looking women.  From the moment I saw their photos at Bill Mishoe's auction (where I bought the pictures), I adored them.  These two women undoubtedly lived in the face of racism, sexism, and many cultural disadvantages.  Their stance, facial expressions, garments, and the fact that they obviously could afford a professional photography session resonated with me.  These ladies were formidable. 

(Above: We Had a Dream: Equality. 50" x 30". Digital images on fabric with hand quilting.  To read more about this art quilt, CLICK HERE.)

Fortunately, my piece for the traveling show fell into place easily, and the finished work is now touring the nation in the exhibition.  I was left with the two extra pieces of fabric and the desire to stitch two "stand alone" pieces.  While stitching, I thought about words to reflect the determination and independence I saw in these to ladies.  The words "persistence" and "resilience" stayed with me.  I ordered brass plate with these titles and customized the frames with assorted tacks. 

 (Above:  Persistence, detail.)

The tacks are subtly part of my thought process.  Why?  Well, popular idioms include "sharp as tacks".  These two had to be observant, smart, and able to navigate through a world with many obstacles.  Tacks are also like nails ... as in "strong as nails".  These two undoubtedly had strength enough to overcome many hardships.

 (Above:  Resilience, detail.)

Most of the stitching in the halo area was done with metallic thread ... the type generally used in a sewing machine.  The stitching is quite dense except on the figures themselves.  When stitching like this, the surrounding area/background tends to shrink a bit due to the pull of the thread.  Doing this is generally not advised.  Instead, it is advised to stitch from the middle to the outside edges ... in order to avoid the center from bulging outward.  I know this.  I count on this ... because I intended to stuff the central figure from the reverse.  This is a technique known as trapunto.

(Above:  Persistence, detail at an angle to show the subtle dimension achieved through the trapunto/stuffing technique.)

As a result, both pieces have a slight three dimensional quality.  Both figures are slightly raised from the densely stitched background.  The trapunto work enhances to visual focus.  I'm very pleased with the results.   Like the statement for the piece I stitched for the invitational opportunity, the same words ring true:  This art quilt pays homage to those who lived in hope that their work would one day bring about a 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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