In 2020, I found myself in an unknown place as an artist. Having a background in textile design sewing, I joined the ranks of the mask makers, making over 1200 masks in 10 months. Artistic expression slipped away as I quarantined and watched the world outside become more and more intense.
In May, the murder of George Floyd rocked the nation and I joined my neighbors in weeping and protesting, but as a white woman, I lacked a way to express grief in a way that did not create additional weight for my friends of color.
Seeking solace in art as a way of dealing with grief, I turned to the least complicated of my art forms - quilting - using scraps of African fabrics in simple blocks. I constructed a quilt as a prayer - meditating on grief, hopes, and history as I stitched. After I finished “Forward Movement” - there was more grief to uncover as we passed through an election unlike any before. “Hope Deferred” and “Divided” became expressions of the chaos. “Privilege” emerged - these simple shapes were developing into a language I felt comfortable using to express even the most uncomfortable topics. The “comforter” was capable of holding “discomfort.”
I realized this language could be shared. Creating a series of videos and materials from my own work and some of the materials from the Inbreak residency, I pitched it to a small diverse group of friends and colleagues.
The participants created works of their own. Each went through the steps of learning the materials (Session 1), mapping their heritage (Session 2), honoring their grief (Session 3) and investigating hope (Session 4). Digital artists turned the project digital, writers wrote profound statements and visual artists pushed boundaries.
This is our work. My quilts, their paper & digital quilts - some of which I have created back into quilts. Each artist has written a statement about their work.
We also have an Instagram account which is documenting our journey together. You can find it at @havebeenandhopetobe.