I Feel Free/ Twenty Feet Deep

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I Feel Free/ Twenty Feet Deep
264 in
40 in
1 in
Photo Credit
John Farley
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These are measuring devices. They refer to flooding in New Orleans, LA after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and recovery from the disaster. I started by wondering what it was like to face flood water "twenty feet deep in places". I measured my dogs, myself, myself with my arms extended. The vaulted ceiling, then moved outdoors. My husband, on a ladder, duck taped the quilt to the highest point of our roofline. Red fabric pooled on the grass; we would have lost everything. As I worked on "Twenty Feet", it quickly grew to include any disaster of a Biblical scope that forever leaves us changed. The obsessive hand stitching was my private comfort as I watched two of my closest friends dying of cancer as I listened to news reports of the larger, more public tragedy. The words "why have you forsaken us" are written, stitched, burned several times throughout the piece. There are tears, and blood from my fingers in the heavy black stitching at the top.

Five years later I began work on a related piece that became "I Feel Free". I used to talk about resilience as a theme, but realized with age and experience that we can recover and rebuild, but we can never bounce back to what was before. Our innocence is forever lost, our happiness tinged by pain. The yellow dress is the one I wore as my sister's bridesmaid. That marriage ended badly; she has gone on to great happiness. Two other life changing events are referred to at the bottom of the work. The weekend I began to assemble it, a friend gave me a bag of burned and rusted pottery pieces, metal electoral parts from a house fire on their ranch. She rides over to check on it periodically, said it's finally looking 'Brooke-ish'. Later the same day our neighborhood was hit by a tornado and baseball sized hail. Friends and neighbors brought me small mementos; without planning it I suddenly had my own stories to weave into the whole. My sister says this is a joy filled quilt to her--"I'm happy you can use my sucky life in your art". I like to show these two pieces together because there are many cross references between them. "Twenty Feet Deep" measures 264"x15"; "I Feel Free" measures 255" x 20". In the above width, I added 5 inches of space between them, for a total of 40".

Several years after I completed "Twenty Feet" there was extensive flooding on the Crow reservation. The son of a friend told his friends about "Twenty Feet". They drove into town, to Home Depot, and started pulling random things off shelves and laying them out in a line in the aisle, measuring about 12 feet in length, the depth of their own flood. Store employees asked the boys what they were doing. Once they explained, the workers helped. So many times we hear words but they lack true meaning until we take time to measure them against our selves, our lives. It brings me great happiness to know that my work has affected people and made them see their world more deeply. To turn around and see a grown man crying, tears running down his cheeks as he talks about what my work means to him, reaching out and almost touching it with his finger, that's the most an artist can ask for. That happened at the Quilt National opening the year my quilt "Springfield" won Best of Show. He was speaking a language I don't know, so I'll never know what he found so moving in it.
Assorted recycled fabrics, bamboo, beads, found objects. Tent canvas support.
Layering, hand and machine stitching, burning, rusting, bleach discharging.

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