Statement: Love Thy Neighbor
From the exhibition Love Thy Neighbor
These quilts are the product of years of gestation about the climate of American culture and my awakening to it. I feel pride in our country, where a tide had turned regarding equal marriage rights, a rebounded economy, a younger empowered generation and newfound visibility of civil rights issues. And yet, I am afraid, angered and horrified by what seems to be a retreat in time, insurmountable insensitivity, hypocrisy, gun violence, greed, police brutality and political polarization to the point that I want to cocoon myself in a blanket and be assured we will all be safe and protected. I am simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic. This internal conflict is messy and has been impossible for me to reconcile.
These quilts are my attempt at doing so. Fences, gates, hedges, walls and security bars that physically divide Americans into neighborhoods, castes and classes, in these works, become abstracted devices that separate the viewer from something lovelier beyond their reach. This denial of access mimics the need to protect ourselves from Others by keeping them out, while simultaneously recalling practices such as redlining, gerrymandering, imprisonment and segregation. These visible and invisible barriers and policies, conceived by those in power based on their own motives, are strategies systematically designed keep one group from another.
One antidote to this, I believe, is to unify—to connect, to share, to empathize. A quilt, by definition, is an object that harmoniously brings together disparate pieces into one inseparable, functional form. The fabrics in these quilts have been found or purchased from thrift stores and yard sales across the country. They are hand-me-downs, throwaways, stained, smelly, loved, discarded and Someone Else’s. Like the makeup of our country, they are Others that become one, and their unification can intimately provide protection, warmth and comfort to those who seek respite from anger, hopelessness and despair.