Monday, July 13, 2015

Theme--Grief, Sacred Threads 2015

One of the reasons I have chosen fiber art (and quilting in particular) as my medium of choice is because of the stories behind the quilts I make. In the Sacred Threads exhibit, the stories are an integral part of the art. I was told by a juror that the artist statement (the story of each quilt) played a large part in the jurying process for this show. Let me give you a little background on Sacred Threads. This comes from the Sacred Threads book published this year.

"The quilts in Sacred Threads 2015 present an artistic look at the deeper side of life. In each case, the quilt is the artist's response to a strong feeling inspired by powerful life experiences: delight and despair, connection and injustice, hope and tragedy, life and death."

"In 1999, founder Vickki Pignatelli and a small group of likeminded quilters set about to create a dignified exhibit of artwork that would touch all those who viewed it on both spiritual and personal levels. Thestories behind the quilts are a source of healing and strength for others because each artist submits a statement to be exhibited with the artwork that describes the meaning or inspiration for the piece. The show does not emphasize any particular religion or theology but conveys the spirituality, healing and inspirational messages shared by people everywhere."

Just an FYI--the stories behind these quilts are "heavy." I will be writing posts on themes other than grief, but these are the quilts that had the biggest impact on me personally. Stay tuned for stories of quilts that are every bit as meaningful but a bit "lighter" in nature.

At first glance, you might think this is a cheery little quilt about pretty bluebirds, but the story goes much deeper than that. The artist, Diane Doran, writes of "A Little Bird Told Me"--"It was so hard to see my mother suffer as she was dying from melanoma. I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with her a few weeks before her death. It was a stunningly beautiful day, full of golden light, and we took a walk in the park behind her house. I was thrilled that she was relaxed and felt well enough to enjoy herself. As we walked I realized it was like visiting her in heaven and that I must remember this special time together. The two birds represent us enjoying the day."

If you have ever lost a pet, you will relate to this next quilt and story. Again, at first glance the story of the quilt is not obvious. Artist Mary Bartrop speaks of her quilt "Grief Rends"--"Grief comes suddenly, unannounced, and everything shifts. It was an ordinary vet visit, until it wasn't. Something needs to be checked. There's nothing that can be done. You don't have long. New grief wakens old ones, and rips my soul. This cat is the last living link to my late husband. His name is Oui, because he is all YES; untamable, an exuberant wild one, all curiosity and all joy. Now I need to let him go, but I cannot. Silly me. Grief will not be controlled. I take my cues from Oui, one day at a time. Savor the moments, until" The story abruptly stops. That bothered me at first, but it is fitting.

The death of a friend is the topic of this next quilt. Artist Sheila Stern speaks of her quilt, "A Piece of My Heart." "This quilt was made to honor the memory of my dear friend, Diane. The quilt expresses the grief I felt as I left her bedside for the last time, turning my world blue. While the sadness was overwhelming, there were bittersweet moments of laughter and joy as her family and I remembered the sunshine and light she brought into our lives. It took the better part of eighteen months to start and complete this quilt as the tears kept blurring my vision. The tears still fill my eyes as I pen these words." What a wonderful way to honor a friend--blue for the grief and yellow for the wonderful memories of her friendship.

The quilt "Stuck in Life" by Kathy Zieben compelled me to read the artist statement. The "haunting" face of a woman trapped pulled me in. Kathy says of her piece, "Is the thought of death sometimes terror-inducing? True, most people do not want to die or lose someone they know. This "great fear" is like a low grade fever, breaking out when we least expect it. The lives of loved ones lost continue to live under the surface of our minds and hum in our heads. But isn't it possible to simultaneously embrace this life while acknowledging one's terror of being "stuck in life?" These vulnerable thoughts wash over you like a wave of emotion and fear. The best thing we can do is allow ourselves to feel the grief as it surfaces. Are you stuck in your life or are you calm?" Sometimes I worry about losing those I love; it IS "terror-inducing." I have to put that terror aside to be able to truly savor the moments I have with them.

There were many more grief-themed quilts that had an impact on me, but this is all I'll be writing on that theme. As I said earlier, I'll be moving onto other themes (joy, inspiration, spirituality, healing, and peace & brotherhood) in my next posts. Come on back if you are interested. I can't urge you enough to go see this show in person if you get a chance. These pictures don't come close to doing the pieces justice. The show runs through July 26, 2015, and is located right outside of Washington, DC. Check out Sacred Threads for more information.


Lisa Greenbow said...

These are heart rending stories...feelings. It must be such a blessing to be able to express yourself in this way.

Anonymous said...

I do love the bird quilt and what she said about it. Thanks for including that one.

Robbie said...

You know...I have heard of Sacred Threads exhibit for years but I honestly never heard the story of the quilts or what they were about. I thought it was a Religious Exhibit! I feel so bad I didn't look often or close enough when someone would post their quilt in this exhibit. THANK YOU so muh for bringing this amazing exhibit to light for us!!! I may not like the sad feelings some of these pieces are bringing my way but I do appreciate each and every one of them now!!!

Teresa Duryea Wong said...

Beth thanks you for these thoughtful blog posts. I am seeing the exhibition through your eyes and words!