‘Desconocidos,’ for The Migrant Quilt Project

Desconocidos, Tucson Sector, 2015-2016, 94” x 61” by Mary Vaneecke, 2017.

About the Work

This piece was commissioned by The Migrant Quilt Project to honor and call attention to those who died crossing the border in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.  It is made in part with clothing discarded at the border by migrants.  The Project commissions a quilt each year, and the quilt must have the names of those whose have died while crossing, or, in the case of unidentified bodies, the word desconocido (unknown or stranger in Spanish).  It was an honor to make this piece with Julia Moore, a high school intern who worked with me this winter.  TMQP has received a grant for travelling exhibitions of these quilts beyond Tucson.  Watch my blog for the next venue.

At the corner of East 15th Street and Kino Blvd. in Tucson is a monumental equestrian statue of Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino.  He was the first European to come to the area.  He is, in a sense, our first border crosser.  The statue (by Julian Martinez) looms large above the intersection and for years, I confess, I have wanted to quilt bomb it with an immigration theme.  I am not sure how that is possible without access to a cherry picker.  Not so subtle!   I  made a transparent silhouette of the statue to incorporate into this piece.  The quilt also features a Virgin of Guadalupe, a marijuana-themed bandanna, and 400 pesos (which I found secreted into the hems of two pairs of jeans).  Money and drug cartels frequently prompt these attempted crossings.

The Numbers

The numbers for Desconocidos The Migrant Quilt Project this year?  One hundred forty-four deaths.  The identified are aged 18-51 years.  Ten women, 128 men, 6 unknown.  Three are teenagers.

Techniques and Materials

Materials:  fusing, clothing, synthetic sheers, thread, canvas, felt.

Techniques:  Burning, machine quilting, fusing, embellishing, image transfer.

Desconocido, detail
Desconocidos by Mary Vaneecke, detail
Desconocidos by Mary Vaneecke, detail showing fabric that has been partially burned away
Desconocidos, by Mary Vaneecke, detail.
Desconocidos, by Mary Vaneecke, detail.

8 thoughts on “‘Desconocidos,’ for The Migrant Quilt Project

  1. Thank you for creating this amazing work of art for the Migrant Quilt Project! I saw it in person this week and it is stunning, visually and in terms of content and meaning.

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