Broken Dishes

Selections from my sizeable collection of mid-century tablecloths and cutwork napkins are the backdrop for one chapter in the History of Toil series. Think about those stressful holiday meals, with mothers, daughters, sisters and sisters-in-law all swirling around a small kitchen, orchestrating a  culinary production that will take days and hours of effort, and be consumed in only minutes.  Families are complicated, and often these meals, though tasty, come fully loaded with undercurrents of conflict and unspoken tensions.

These works each make reference to traditional quilt patterns and structures.  In Broken Dishes, I used the hourglass block form, repeating it in various sizes and positions.  The white tablecloth with blue and magenta print was stained and mended, but I preserved parts of the corner motifs (a woman in a hoopskirt, holding a parasol in one hand and the leash of a small dog in the other).  The linen napkin has been solar-dyed.  My palette of fabrics include cheerful checks, polka dots and apron prints; accented by deep indigo and black shards, the darker side of women's work.

 A History of Toil: Broken Dishes (detail)

A History of Toil: Broken Dishes (detail)

Centerpiece uses another print tablecloth, over-dyed in indigo,  as well as fragments from a found grandmother's garden quilt top.  There is a spiderweb embroidered over the hexagonal block, maybe to emphasize the connections between women, maybe to suggest an element of entrapment? The idea of a busy hive of workers, with a central, unquestioned matriarch, resonated for me. I was never that woman. In fact, in almost 40 years of marriage, this past Christmas Day was the first I have spent in my own home. We always traveled back to Michigan, where I was happy to play supporting cast in the annual mealtime dramas. "Why don't you bring a salad, Helen"?

I loved the depression-era pink of the quilt top background when I saw it hanging on a line at a yard sale years ago.  I used this as a bedspread for a few years, but all the lovely yellow rayon pieces soon began to deteriorate. This is a big quilt top and there is a lot left over, so other fragments will likely appear in future works. 

 A History of Toil: Centerpiece (detail)

A History of Toil: Centerpiece (detail)

Both of these pieces are included in the juried exhibit , Stitch: Contemporary Textile Art from Kentucky and Surrounding States, at the Claypool-Young Gallery at Morehead State College, Morehead, KY.  https://www.moreheadstate.edu/News/2017/May/STITCH-Contemporary-Textile-Art-from-Kentucky-an

This exhibit will be on view from June 5 through August 30, with a closing reception on August 30, 5-7 PM, followed by a talk with juror Nick DeFord

Books:

This month I have been reading Lucky Us, by Amy Bloom, Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout ,The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon, The Stars are Fire, by Anita Shreve, and The End of the Wasp Season, by Denise Mina.