For me quilts are first and foremost pieces of cultural expression; they tell stories and speak about the world in which they reside. In the nineteenth century, American quilts told the story of emigration and the westward journey, spoke to hardship and spiritual devotion. Just as those quilts were responses to their time, my quilts are a reflection of my frequently uncomfortable relationship with the world around me. My quilts address the complicated nature of modern relationship and many of the major social and political issues of the 21st century.
My most recent projects have centered on two series of quilts: the first dealing with the epidemic of gun violence titled, “No Safe Place,” and the second which deals with my eight year struggle with rare, chronic illnesses titled, “Self-Portrait (with illness).” What interests me the most in continuing with my quilts is the way in placing these concerns within the context of daily life rather than in remote spaces of the gallery. While I frequently exhibit my quilts nationally in both quilt shows and art galleries, my insistence on making practical quilts remains present and is felt by viewers. Thus my quilts are ultimately about demonstrating that the political is always personal; they insist upon an intimate relationship between the intellectual and the bodily.
For just a couple of glimpses inside my process I recommend my “Go Tell It” segment with Quilt Alliance here and my two part interview with Why Quilts Matter here.
Below are a few of my quilts that demonstrate ways in which I translate my life, my concerns, and my beliefs into quilts. The thing they all have in common is my commitment to using basic quilterly forms and techniques whenever possible to maintain an underlying connection to the historical quilting tradition even as I branch out to new approaches to the nature of quilts…
Each of the 1,600 blocks in this quilt represent one of the lives lost to domestic violence each year in the US. The fact that the quilt’s length is in excess of the wall it hangs upon symbolically demonstrates the tragic excess of each of these deaths.
In Defense of Handmade (90″x90″)
In piecing a precise replica of the barcode of a mass-produced Martha Stewart quilt for Macy’s, this quilt is a critique of the ways in which individually made objects have been re-envisioned as a mass-market aesthetic, with the outward appearance of craft being sold as a signifier of authenticity.
Smart Is Beautiful (80″x80″)
Made for my young daughter after a remarkable conversation about feminism, and the reality that women have long been told to simply aspire to beauty. The blocks of this quilt spell out the phrase “smart is beautiful” in ASCII binary; thus it is an intimate reminder that the now prevailing advice for girls to be smart AND beautiful remains profoundly problematic. Smart is indeed beautiful in and of itself.
In stitching a patchwork Pride Flag with the traditional quilting for a Double Wedding Ring quilt. Made as a gift for my aunt and her partner, this piece subtly demonstrates the natural union of same-sex marriages, the fact that same-sex relationships are first and foremost loving relationships born of comfort and communion.
Pie Graphs: Income Inequality (80″x80″)
By transforming traditional Dresden plates into pie graphs that represent the wealth distribution of various G20 countries, this quilt brings the pervasive reality of income inequality home (figuratively and literally). The white square holds the graph for the US and is quilted with a quotation from the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech given by MLK Jr.
In intermingling foundation pieced blocks that spell out the word YOU and ME, this quilt explores the reality of the notion of US being a complicated negotiation. The quilting motif utilizes ASCII binary for the word US to stitch together all of the individual identities.
This quilt utilizes a geometric progression of colored squares (2,4,8,16,32…) to represent the biological process of cellular mitosis. It was made as my wife and I were using IUI to have our second child, a choice made to avoid knowingly passing on my rare illnesses. Beyond representing the process, this quilt is a promise to my resulting son that he was always already my child regardless of the biological reality.
Marriage Quilt #2 (82″x82″)
The piecing of this quilt spell out “and thereto I plight thee my troth” in Morse code from the top to the bottom, with the quilting spelling out the complete wedding vows from the original Common Book of Prayer, also in Morse code. This is part of a series of quilts in which wedding vows are embedded in the texture of the quilt, speaking to lives spent together rather than simply commemorating the wedding day.