People are the hallmark of my work: viewers know my work for the characters whose layered images I print on cloth as multiple superimposed screenprints. However, I occasionally like to focus on an inanimate object. Usually, the object presents some riddle or special significance that I muse upon in my workbooks. Before I incorporate the object in a piece, I ask if there is a metaphor to be discovered, a meaning that becomes a visual story, more than meets the eye. Objects that recur in my thinking and my work include umbrellas, chairs, hands and the selection game of rock-paper-scissors.
The power of simplicity can be difficult to adhere to in a medium where surface design techniques are seductive and the nature of patchwork is complex. I strive for simplicity in my work, often needing to remind myself to keep things simple. While most of my imagery is figurative or representational, on occasion I make non-objective work: frequently just a simple mark or stroke.
H9 x W120 inches (installed as single scroll: H9 x W21 xD14 inches; double scroll H9 x W28 x D14 inches)
An old game of selection played around the world, Rock-Paper-Scissors depends on chance by hiding, then showing one’s choice. Used paper coffee filters screenprinted with images of scissors overlap on the outside of my scroll. I save and repurpose the filters as memories of friends and conversations shared over coffee – friends who have been cut from my life when we moved away to new places. The inside is screenprinted with tracings of local creek stones that represent both the presence and absence of stones moved along by the current, a metaphor for those who migrate and move on. Like the selection game, the standing scroll form hides and reveals.
40 x 40 inches
When a flashflood carries a creek stone to another place, the stone resettles in a new spot. But the empty hollow where it used to be remains as a memory. Displaced stones are a metaphor for people who migrate. In times of the pandemic, empty places acquire another new meaning, another layer to the significance of absence.
People escape into reading, writing and imagining. Printed in a book or handwritten in one’s journal, brushed on paper, etched in stone or scratched into a soft ground, some marks are meant to be read. But some remain inscrutable. Leaving marks to be found by those who come after is to avoid being lost to history. Shards of broken pottery, a thimble, pins, cloth, buttons and other midden bits from daily life find their way intentionally or unintentionally into compost piles, landfills, woods, streams or farm fields. Marks left as memory of who has passed through here.
Scissors: a tool or a weapon? Instrument for good or bad, making or destroying, cutting on the dotted lines. The images that dance across “A Thousand Cuts” are my scissors for sewing, paper-cutting, embroidery and even a pair of surgical scissors from my grandfather’s medical bag. I chose to arrange them with points down as a warning that these tools have blades that can hurt and stab, at the same time as they are tools for creating.
H50 x W49 inches
An ordinary object, the umbrella becomes a way to depict isolation. A person under an open umbrella is protected but is also surrounded and insulated by the space defined by the umbrella’s spread. In the gloom of a rainy day, we hurry silently through crowds, dipping our umbrella to hide our face. On the other hand, when isolation is imposed, it can be crushing.
Why chairs? For two years, I lived in Korea, a floor-sitting culture. When something is missing, it becomes significant by its absence. The chair is stable: a place to rest. But in the musical game, the chair is not guaranteed and anxiety increases: will there be a chair for me or not? I chose the chair motif for my quilt about visiting remote hilltribe villages in northern Thailand. The trip’s timing turned out to be dangerous: the start of opium transport with gunfire and barking dogs at night and armed guards along the roads.
May Day, May Day
H36 x W 32 inches
The apron protects. While men wear them, aprons are usually identified with women. Hung upside down as a distress signal, my apron uses the motif of upraised hands to say stop violence against women. A raised hand, palm forward, is clearly STOP; two hands raised, palms forward, is “I am unarmed I am surrendering;” and the back of the hand is a threat.
H49 x W57 inches
Intended to hang “in the round” to be viewed from both sides, this art quilt invites the viewer to try to look through the openings in the quilts. The viewer looks not only at the work, but also sees into and out of the small and veiled openings. The experience conveys the feeling of having one’s vision restricted by outside forces and comments on people who, by imposing restrictions on others display their own restricted vision.
pieds de verre
40 x 40 inches
The ballerina, immobile in her wheelchair, talked to me about her past dancing prima roles on the world’s best-known stages. She could barely speak with emphysema now controlling her gnarled, twisted body. Her every movement, still graceful, was slowed and disguised by age and pain. We spoke for a long time, but she didn’t want me to take a photo, so I chose an abstract painted gesture to portray the elegance of what she used to be.
40 x 40 inches
The Puppet Master moves in shadows: manipulating, pulling strings, telling stories in satire & thin fiction. Unwatched by the powers that would control, the unseen Puppet Master comments anonymously through the mouths of wooden characters moved about on invisible cords. From my series “those who got away,” In Shadows is based on a real Puppet Master.
H56 x W18 inches
Seeking quiet simplicity, I looked back to the muscle memory from my oriental calligraphy studies of 40 years ago to paint wide, big strokes with the branch of a broom plant across a plain white field. The name “broom” for the simple cleaning tool, comes from using broom plant branches to sweep away dirt. When I feel a need to simplify my work the clean minimalism of the stroke of a broom is a good answer.