Quilting the Waterway
A series of works, actions and events that address local and global clean water issues through textile arts-related patterns and handwork traditions.
"Quilting the Waterway" first began when I happened to notice crushed "Magic Garden" dixie cups strewn in the grass at my son's soccer game. I bought more of the colorful cups and started folding and arranging them. Folding cups became my version of knitting - handwork I could bring with me anywhere. I discovered that I could make amazing shapes and beautiful patterns with the cups.
I bought several sheets of deep turquoise-colored paper, handmade in India, onto which I glued my first "cup collages". The color of the paper reminded me of the Caribbean Sea and made the negative space-shapes in between the cups pop. As I began sewing the cups together, I saw a connection between my turquoise "cup-quilts" and the network between my mother, first-generation Jamaican-American, and her female first cousins from Jamaica, all of whom exerted a strong, firm and nurturing maternal influence on me.
Not long after I picked up my first "Magic Garden" cups from the grass, my daughter's math teacher sent home an article illustrating seventeen different types of symmetry mathematicians have identified in Oriental carpets. I began using the folded dixie cup as the motif to explore the many various symmetries.
Symmetry* became a vehicle for exploring the idea of multiplicity. The image of "one within many" speaks to the impact of individual actions on collective consequences while calling to mind the "butterfly effect".
I conceived of the cup as an emblem of clean water representing "the life-generating and nurturing powers of the universe...symbolized by the ancient chalice or grail..."**. Everywhere I looked, my attention was drawn to water issues around the world and in my immediate environment.
"Quilting the Waterway" became a body of work that references handwork textile traditions historically done by women in private domestic space, work compatible, hence associated with care giving. I use this reference as a "conceptual overlay"*** for creating works of art in public open space to raise ideas about community and connectivity between people, water and places.
* For more on the relationship between my Quilting the Waterway work and mathematics, click the link below to view an essay written by Gary Kennedy, Professor of Mathematics at Ohio State University, Mansfield for the exhibition In the Realm of Forms. Scroll through pages 6 - 8 where my work is cited in relation to Stephen Pinker's ideas on "The Wrong Kind of Subject Matter".
** Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade - Our History, Our Future.
San Francisco: Harper, 1988.
*** Lippard, Lucy. Overlay. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.