I don't know if Penny handled the spirits or the spirits handled her, but something other-worldly happened!
The Carnegie Center in New Albany, Indiana opened a permanent historical exhibit documenting events in Southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky regarding experiences surrounding The Underground Railroad. Penny was asked to do these quilts in conjunction with the exhibit opening. I went opening night but the crowd was too thick for me to do more than get a feeling for both exhibits. Last Saturday, Penny gave a gallery talk and I went. There are 23 quilts in the exhibit and all but 2 where made since December 2nd of 2005. That is also my youngest son's birthday and the last time I saw Penny in person he was around 6 months old and I have a photo somewhere of her holding him at an exhibit at Mary Anderson Center for the Arts. As Penny talked about her work, I was moved to tears often and had chills several times.
(enlarge images by clicking over them)
I find Penny's portrayal of the human soul and spirit to be her gift in textiles, but the one above was one that I felt if I stood before it long enough the man was going to start talking to me, so I had to ask her about who he was. When she lived in Mali she had to tell this man that his time on earth was near due to blood posioning. She said he thanked her and it struck her how few people can hear the truth without hating the truth teller. But as I type this now, I'm wondering when is hope false? We can only know this in hindsight, right???? And isn't it our values (intangibles and evolving as they are) that really declare hope false or real???? But his image stayed with her and she placed her image of him in this quilt.
The center quilt on the picture on the left above pictures Jesus with angels. Penny's vision of angels are not the plump cherubs we are accustomed to seeing but the children who have suffered on earth. There is a child there with down's syndrome, one who is malnourished, etc.
(on right above) Light a Candle In Heaven Harriet Tubman.
I came away knowing that her politics, spirituality, art and soul are well integrated and progressive and speaks through her work, but I can see where many, or even most, would be uncomfortable or even intimidated by her sense of being in the world. As for me, her work, presence is a blessing.