In April I posted about freshly painted cloth for new projects. My intention with the red and blue was to create a piece about the toxic tribalism that is plaguing our country. Tribalism has been around since the beginning of time but in the last three years has become increasingly toxic. There are many opinionated people, seemingly most of them are on social media. All of their real life & online friends are people who think just like they do. They have no tolerance nor respect for anyone who thinks otherwise. And often they hide behind their keyboard spewing hatred towards anyone who doesn’t think like they do. It has become incredibly toxic to our society and humanity, this world of US and THEM.
I typed a Word doc of words, phrases, various aspects of tribalism and screen-printed that to cloth. After heat-setting the paint I put both the red and blue painted cloths up on the design wall. I stared at those for over a month. I kept waiting for divine inspiration. Nothing happened.
A colleague posted an image of her WIP and a light bulb went off. Her work was composed of multiple geometric pieces. DUH…go back to quilting 101! Cut up pieces of fabric and piece a background. As I sorted through my various blue and red batiks and silks, I came up with a new design. The pieced backgrounds grew, then the next decision was what shape I wanted to make this work. I knew I did not want your basic geometric quilt shape.
I wanted something that exemplified the chaos created by this tribalism. So I worked towards a big piece that was exactly the same dimensions on each side, of the blue and red. I got it all pieced and cut to match, and still it wasn’t right. I thought about my works Upheaval with their wonky shapes. Maybe I could do something like that? Instead of doing something familiar though, I decided to make it really difficult for myself!
I took a photo with my phone and printed out three pages of the image. I proceeded to cut and tape various combinations of a different shape. I came up with three good ideas. I laid out the big background on my design table and cut what I thought were equivalent-sized strips. One by one I sewed together batting & backing of each stripe. I overlaid fused letters of US and THEM in opposing colors and then took the quilt-lets to the mid-arm and stitched.
Back in the studio, I arranged the quilt-lets on the design wall. Somehow with all my careful measuring and cutting the composition was heavy on the red and not equal with the blue. I didn’t like it! So I sewed an extra 5″ blue quilt-let (which I ended up not using!)
I decided each quilt-let needed blocking so it would lay more flat. I blocked them. After they had blocked, I tried different compositions. I tried weaving the strips, nah, that hides the lettering.
Nothing resonated. I began to research buying more red and blue batiks, online during the pandemic, and to start over. I decided to try one more thing first.
I would backstitch the quilt-lets together. I did so, leaving the bottom half of each quilt-let open. This allowed them to twist and turn as they wanted to do. And what a perfect metaphor for the dissension within the tribes! So I continued on, whip-stitching from the backside, until I had a full composition. Still the reds were wider than the blues. Then I remembered there are more red states than blue states in the US, so that is ok. (as if artists license were not enough!)
I still was not sure I liked it. I began to consider how many pieces of art I have made but did not like (not that many, actually). I just began to let go of it. Not everything is a masterpiece. I pressed it again and pinned to block on the wall. When it was dry I took it downstairs to photograph, for posterity, because surely it is not going anywhere else!
When I turned on the photo lights, something really weird happened. I really LOVE this piece! All that angst and turmoil turned into a piece I am really proud of!
This quote is printed on the front and back of this work….
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. – Friedrich Nietzsche