Category: Subversive Stitching

Political statements in fabric.

Little Elegies, first installation of The Mourning Project

Little Elegies, first installation of The Mourning Project

The Mourning Project is a huge community fiber art project to collect 23,000 handmade baby booties, one for each American infant who dies before her first birthday every year.  The US has the worst infant mortality rate in the developed world.  This project seeks to educate the makers and viewers about the issue, and start a discussion on how we can address this as a country.

The YWCA of Southern Arizona hosted the first installation of The Mourning Project, Little Elegies, April 2019 in Tucson.  By this time makers contribute over 3,000 pairs of handmade baby shoes.  These are some images of the first exhibition.  Future installations will vary by venue as more makers donate booties.

A rare view of the full installation with clouds (3,000 pairs of booties).

 

View of the first installation of The Mourning Project, at dusk.

 

This shot shows the bootie count as of Thursday evening. At takedown, it was 3,223.

 

detail of the the altar cloth, which is a collage of vintage hand-worked linens, over-dyed and stitched boro style.

 

first installation of The Mourning Project, detail

 

Several makers view the installation.

 

View of installation from the altar.

 

Attendees with signage from the installation. Signs educate viewers on the varied causes of infant mortality, and the solutions shown to address each cause.

The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water, mixed media textiles, by Mary Vaneecke

The Weight of Water  by Mary Vaneecke, 20” x 20” by 12”

Artist Statement

When I attended a photo shoot for  The Migrant Quilt Project I was struck by the fabric slings for water bottles that Jody Ipsen brought from campsites along the border.  Jody is the founder of the MQP.  Crossers or their loved ones or immigrants rights groups make these slings hastily. They sometimes include encouraging messages like bueno suerte (good luck) or contigo en la distancia (with you on your journey).  It hit me how these migrants had to carry enough water with them to survive their journey.  They had to decide what to carry with them across the border, and what to leave behind on their way to a new life.

The items left at campsites or layups tell of a journey fraught with peril and loss.  Jody allowed me to photocopy pages from a book for prayers to Santa Muerte, or Saint Death.  Santa Muerte is important because she can protect crossers from violent death.  Jody also shared copies from a small notebook filled with handwritten poetry or Verzos.  (One of those poems is for Mother on Mother’s Day.)  Ten dollars worth of pesos secreted into hand-stitched hems is another frequent find.  Migrants often carry milagros or votives with them.  Empty gallon jugs and carpet shoes, which mask footprints when worn over street shoes, are common in layup sites along the border.

My version of these slings include headlines from American newspapers about the official policies dealing with migrants, as well as reproductions from prayer and poetry books found on the border.

Materials

Found objects (water bottles and carpet shoes), deconstructed American flag and denim jeans, vintage mola (maker unknown), milagros, woven textiles from South and Central America (makers unknown), silk organza, cotton, vintage Mexican flag collectible, Virgin de Guadelupe fabric, facsimiles of found objects, fusible web.

Techniques

Machine and hand stitch, image transfer, fusing, applique.

New Work:  Back to ‘Mending’

New Work: Back to ‘Mending’

New Work:  Back to ‘Mending’

Yet another new work inspired by Hazel Hall’s poem, “Mending.”  Full text of the poem is here.  Written about 100 years ago (Hall died in 1924), it is the gift that keeps on giving!  Hall describes a mundane household chore as a subversive act, ‘a little travesty on life.’ It just seems to fit our zeitgeist, doesn’t it?

This piece combines several of the techniques I have used in the last year: layered sheers, cutting, burning, and visible mending.  It feels radical to me, but still beautiful.  Similar to Haiku III, but dimensional instead of fused flat.  Best of all, I have ideas for several more pieces in this style.

Stay tuned.

Yes, I have been Mending III, 40'' x 30'' by Mary Vaneecke
Yes, I have been Mending III, 40” x 30” by Mary Vaneecke

 

Yes, I have been Mending III by Mary Vaneecke, detail.

Materials

Fabric, dyes, fusible web.

Techniques

Fusing, dyeing, burning, machine stitch, cut work.

photo credit: Jack Kulawik

(White) Silence is Violence

(White) Silence is Violence

While this work is a modern quilt with a contemporary theme, it stands firmly in the tradition of subversive stitching in quilts.

When officers of the law become judge, jury, and executioners, killing unarmed black citizens, we all have a problem.  The police act on our behalf.  This slogan from the Black Lives Matter movement challenges our complicity in the face of these injustices.  It demands our attention.  We must find a way to hold our police officers close, and still hold them accountable.  This piece is included in the Studio Art Quilt Associates Loaded Conversations exhibition.

The work is silk dupion, hand-painted fabrics, layered and stitched.  Embellished with hand-painted, frayed twine.
letters on white quilted silk
(White) Silence is Violence, by Mary Vaneecke
text on densely quilted white sillk
detail, (White) Silence is Violence by Mary Vaneecke
‘Desconocidos,’ for The Migrant Quilt Project

‘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.
Yes, I have been Mending II (A Little Travesty)

Yes, I have been Mending II (A Little Travesty)

Hazel Hall’s poem ‘Mending’ reveals mending as a subversive act, an act of defiance, ‘a little travesty.’ Those who disagree with the current administration must put aside our shock and grief at the loss for what we thought America was, and fight for American ideals, to mend what is broken in this country.

Those who work in textiles have a long history of political activism.  Like Betsy Ross.  Or Madame Defarge.  Watch Threads of Resistance for many political art quilts, or little travesties.

Yes, I have been Mending II, 32 x 33.5” 2017

 

Yes, I have been Mending II, detail

The full text of the poem is here:

Mending

Hazel Hall

Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Ravelling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.

 

 

 

Yes, I Have Been Mending

Yes, I Have Been Mending

My latest art quilt, Yes, I Have Been Mending was inspired by 2 ideas.  One is Hazel Hall’s poem, Mending. I recently discovered her poetry through Poets.org’s Poem-a-Day program.  It is great to have a poem delivered to my in-box every day.  I don’t always read it, but it is there!  Hall used stitch imagery in several of her poems, so I was delighted to read her work.

The second idea that inspired me was the visible mending trend.   It’s a lot like it sounds, but check out the link or Pinterest for some examples.   ‘Yes, I Have Been Mending’ uses several gorgeous layers of hand-dyed silks, which I layered with eco-felt.  And then I took an Exacto knife and sand paper to it to create holes.  A bit of a travesty, but that is part of the poem!  I then patched the red quilt with green thread and some more hand-dyed silks.

My favorite line in Mending is the last.  The complete text of the poem is below:

Mending

Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Ravelling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.

 

art quilt 'Yes, I Have Been Mending,' 2016, 38'' x 23.5''
‘Yes, I Have Been Mending,’ 2016, 38” x 23.5”

 

'Yes, I Have Been Mending,' detail
‘Yes, I Have Been Mending,’ detail

 

Poisoning Flint

'Poisoning Flint' is made of hand-dyed, rust dyed silk organza, felted wool, stitch, and a drinking glass.
‘Poisoning Flint’ is made of hand-dyed, rust dyed silk organza, felted wool, stitch, and a drinking glass.  The piece is 4.5” x 18” x 4.5”.  It was a part of the Surface Design Association’s Transgressing Traditions exhibition at the Schweinfurth Art Center in 2016.  ‘Poisoning Flint’ will travel with the Studio Art Quilt Associates H2Oh! show through 2019.  
Elegy for the Beautiful Son

Elegy for the Beautiful Son

The Beautiful Son, hand-dyed, hand-worked liturgical linen (maker unknown), layered and quilted with the names of African American boys and men killed at the hands of police, and burned.
Elegy for the Beautiful Son, hand-dyed, hand-worked liturgical linen (maker unknown), layered and quilted with the names of African American boys and men killed at the hands of police, then burned. 36” x 33”.  It is part of the Sacred Threads 2017 exhibition.  
Elegy for the Beautiful Son by Mary Vaneecke.
Elegy for the Beautiful Son by Mary Vaneecke, detail.

Abuela Reads the Headlines

Abuela Reads the Headlines , 2015

Abuela is Spanish for grandmother.  I imagine her in her barrio (neighborhood) garden in my hometown, Tucson, surrounded by an ocotillo (a living, cactus-type) fence.  She has her handwork and the blessed Virgin of Guadalupe nearby, with a grandchild at her knee.  Abuela scans the headlines about America’s current immigration policy, and weeps.

Materials:  vintage handworked textiles (makers unknown), felted wool, embellishing (480 jewelry spikes), cotton and cotton-silk fabric, dyeing, discharging, silk sari ‘yarn,’ window screen, acrylic felt, embellishments (milagros and crystal rosary), synthetic organza.

Techniques:  dyeing, heat and chemical burning, wet felting, hand stitching, couching, machine stitch, discharging, devore, dyeing, cutting.

Abuela Reads the Headlines, 55''h x 84''
Abuela Reads the Headlines, 55”h x 84”
Abuela Reads the Headlines, detai
Abuela Reads the Headlines, detail

Lucina Lighting the Way

Lucina Lighting the Way, 2013, 24'' x 24''
Lucina Lighting the Way, 2013, 24” x 24”

Quilt for Change  recently asked me to submit a piece for their Light, Hope, and Opportunity Challenge.  The project raises awareness about the Solar Sisters program, where African women entrepreneurs are given loans to start their own businesses.  They buy inexpensive rechargeable solar lights to sell in their communities.  This means fewer costly and dangerous kerosene lanterns in African villages.  What a great cause!  The exhibition will start in Geneva next month, and hopefully travel to the US.

I have been thinking about burning the edges of a piece for a while, and this seemed like an excellent opportunity.

Here is my artist statement for the piece:

Lucina Lighting the Way

Lucina was the Roman goddess of light and childbirth:  She who brings children into the light.  Here, the pregnant goddess holds a golden orb.  The lively color scheme and bright shapes evoke a hopeful spring.  This quilt is a tribute to modern-day Lucinas, our Solar Sisters, who are bringing safe, affordable, solar-powered light to their friends and neighbors.  The singed edges are a reminder of the dangers of kerosene lanterns, which maim and kill users across Africa each year.  Hand-dyed, and printed linen, painted silk, layered and machine stitched.  Techniques include cutwork with a burned-edge finish.

detail:

'Lucina Lighting the Way,' detail
‘Lucina Lighting the Way,’ detail

 

America Surrounded

America Surrounded70” x 65”  This piece is my re-interpretation of the traditional Revolutionary War-era quilt block, Burgoyne Surrounded.  I updated it by replacing the traditional square grid with a triangular grid and using paint, printing, and discharging techniques instead of traditional piecing.  Made from cotton fabrics, discharged, painted and screen printed, layered with felt and machine stitched.

Fragment – SOLD

Fragment38”x 32” This piece is inspired by an ancient Egyptian fragment of carved and painted stone.  It depicts a wetland teeming with life.  Techniques include discharged and torn fabric, layered, machine stitched, and hand painted. The gray area is exposed and painted batting.  Embellished with silk ribbon.  SOLD

The Fabric of Our Community After January 8 – SOLD

The Fabric of Our Community
The Fabric of Our Community After January 8, 24 x 24'' SOLD

This is my artistic response to the Tucson shootings.  Techniques include shibori discharging, image transfer, layering with hand and machine stitching.  Embellished with Indonesian silk cocoons.  Stretched on a wooden frame.