Tag: immigration

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.

‘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.

No Censorship at THIS Quilt Show!

The Tucson Quilters Guild Quilt Fiesta! 2017 is all over, but this one was even more interesting that usual for me. One of the show co-chairs confided in me that my entry Abuela Reads the Headlines caused some controversy at the quilt show.  Apparently at least two people asked that it be removed from the show show.  Here is a pic of the piece:

quilt by Mary Vaneecke
Abuela Reads the Headlines, 55” x 84”

I believe the controversial part is the 2015 headlines from mainstream media that appear on the quilt.  They are:

U.S. looks to detain more mother, child migrants, sometimes for months

 

Judge blasts ICE, says immigrant children, parents in detention centers should be released

 

Border detention of children shames America

And, what is for me, the kicker:

Cribs replace bunks at new immigrant detention center

But my quilt was not the only one to cause a stir.  My friend Sandy Lambert had an incredible piece called ‘Lest We Forget.’  It is entirely hand quilted and embroidered with quotations by Republican presidential candidates, along with tombstones with the various dates of their campaigns’ demise.

quilt by Sandy Lambert
Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert.

 

Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert, detail.

 

Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert, detail

Several people confronted the show co-chair, Reilly Zoda and asked (perhaps demanded?) that the quilts be removed from the show due to their political content.  She said that there was a Quilt of Valor at the show (and that was a political quilt), and a patriotic Baltimore Album quilt, and that was political, and if the show was going to censor political quilts, they would have to take them all down.  What a brilliant response.

I am so proud that the show chairs refused to remove the ‘offending’ quilts.   They were courageous in refusing to censor free expression at the show.  We all know women have long expressed their hopes, dreams, and political beliefs in quilts, and the Tucson Quilters’ Guild honored that part of our tradition this weekend.  The actions of the TQG stand in stark contrast the actions of the AQS over a quilt by Kathy Nida.  (If you are unfamiliar with the case, google it, or click here, here, and here.)

Our foremothers would be proud!

I am holding my breath, however.  I fear that this will be a hot topic at the next board meeting, and there may be a new policy in place for next year….  I will keep you posted.

I know from experience that the guild will hear 10 negative comments for each positive one.  If you agree with their decision to allow ‘political’ quilts in the show, please let them know!