Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Leaving the Pueblo, an art quilt

(Above:  Leaving the Pueblo. 36" x 23". Image transfers on fabric, pieced, machine and hand stitched.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

At the end of August, my husband Steve and I enjoyed a wonderful Western adventure to National Parks in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  I took hundreds of photos, and many of them were detail shots of the amazing textures found in Ancestral Puebloan ruins.  We took an early morning extended tour of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde.  Inside one of the enclosures was the remains of 13th century wall decor.  Just looking at the picture makes my mind wonder about the people who lived there, the many footprints that came and went, the history, and the passage of time.  (To read about our trip, CLICK HERE.)

 (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

Like most people, I take photographs to remember a particular place and time.  I take pictures because I'm amazed and overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of a place and because the textures are so vast and intricate that I know my stitching will never compare ... but I'd like to try!  Generally, I don't try.  There isn't enough time in a single life to recreate the sensations from a trip like this. 

  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

The tour guide talked about the native population that left Mesa Verde and surrounding areas. There is no concrete reason. Perhaps it was due to years of drought and failing crops. Perhaps the population had outgrown the land's capacity for crops.  Perhaps it was after raids from other tribes.  For whatever reason, they migrated south.  Were these ancient people forced to flee?  It is hard to imagine an entire area leaving behind well constructed dwellings, homes, storage bins of food, kivas and places to worship without also imagining some foreboding force in the equation.

  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

In other places, we learned about the Long Walk of the Navajo Nation and other tribes, an attempt at ethnic cleansing by forced migration in 1864.  Many died along the seven or so paths that stretched out over 300 miles.  Few were prepared for the long journey.  Some escaped and raided the soldiers.  The conditions at the internment camp were deplorable, including brackish water, failed cropped, and starvation.  Four years later, those that remained were allowed to return to their homelands, an Indian reservation.  This is a story that isn't confined to the area known as "the four corners".  Tribes east of the Mississippi have the Trail of Tears.  They were never permitted to return but granted ever shrinking areas of land in places totally unlike their native landscapes. The history of North American's native population is a horrible one, a dark spot on the USA nation's past.  
  (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, detail.)

Everywhere we went, I saw footprints of modern people in the sand.  People coming and going.  People walking along the same paths as those used over the course of history.  I wondered how many people today were related to those who fled, those who forced them to go, or those in other parts of the world where other conflicts caused other sad tales of migration.  My father and his parents were forced from their Hungarian farm after World War II.  There must have been footprints there too.

 (Above:  Leaving the Pueblo, reverse.)

Perhaps I noticed the footprints because of history.  Perhaps I photographed them simply for their texture.  Perhaps I snapped the shots with the idea of stitching this quilt. Like the reason behind the Ancestral Puebloan people leaving their cliff dwelling, I really don't know.  But I do know that the images later inspired me to have Spoonflower transfer a couple shots to fabric so that I could enter a piece in the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) call-for-entry for a traveling exhibition called Forced to Flee.  Odds are long for an acceptance but that's not why I made this quilt.  Really, it was high time that I actually try to stitch some of the textures from one of my trips! 

The reverse of the quilt is an image of footprints.  My husband Steve likes it better than the front!


Elizabeth said...

Always so inspiring!!! You also write so beautifully! I have been to many National Parks and Monuments but none has left the impact that Mesa Verde did!!!

Kiss Marianne said...

Dear Susan Lenz, I'm amazing from all your works and this one, the Pueblos are most fantastic.
Thank xou very much!
Perhaps i have wrought but if not, I write it now – I'm living in Hungary, Budapest and should like to know, where was your Father's house? Was he origined "Schwab"? Because after the II WW
followed a great chase after them. Or on account some other thing? We, my family and I remained at home (in Hungary) in spite of the fact that we are Jewish and in the II.WW. we were the pursueds. My dear Father and Grandpa were killed by the Hungarian and German nazis.
But now the world again very dangerous place for many people. It's very sad, isn't it?
With love