Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Story In the Work

I was asked about my motivation behind the 725 series and the short answer is a poem I had written years ago...a poem that is part of a manuscript of poems based on my family's mythology/genealogy.  The long answer which I'm going to flush out more here because I'm borrowing an adage from a friend's poem that says "tell them so I'll know".


First, it starts with my love, love, love for processes that alter the surface of the fabric, you name it, I want it close at hand and available in my workshop so that I can work spontaneous with ideas.  The second thing, and I can't really say that it happens in a consecutive order like I'm laying out here, but for now, I'll say the second thing, was asking myself how I can make what I do look like me, say my name, come from my heart...a yearning to make my complex cloth speak beyond just techniques used.

Back in the winter I had a poetry reading and inspite of not having any new work in a long while, the process really opened me up and took me higher (hello sly stone).  Most of the poems where from the manuscript I mentioned and I feel it is my strongest set of work and I then pondered how I could reflect that sense of intimacy and energy in my quilt.  I was already armed with the insight of how excited I became whenever viewing quilts with text, especially text that was slightly obscured, hidden.  This is where the idea enters to align my poems with my quilts.

725 West Saint Catherine street was the home my great Uncle M.C. purchased for his mother, my great grandmother around 1945ish or so.  It was the first house I entered after my birth and it was a place I practically lived due to my parents both working either 2 jobs or lots of overtime until they purchased their own home when I was five.  My great-grandmother didn't pass on until I was in my mid-20s and her and her home where major presences in my development.  I wrote a poem entitled 725 West Saint Catherine after I took my 2 oldest children then 14 and 5 by the house to photograph it and to explain to them what it meant in my life.  The poem became the backdrop on the cloth.  I hand wrote stanzas as the first layer and then with consecutive layers I tried to strategically keep areas open for certain words to peep through.

The circles as layers are representative of wholeness, history and time as fluid.  The lines crossing through the circles represent oppositional energy that compliments and enhances and gives power to the personal and the collective sense of identity.  It is my attempt to make sankofa (an Akan concept that translate to looking back to go forward) a visual experience.

I initially saw them as very large pieces, larger than anything I've ever made.  But because I found myself with the emotional attachment that I have with the poem, the energy and connection, I wanted to work out all the symbols and design and techniques out on smaller pieces first. 


I'm placing the binding on them this week and finished one yesterday while at the eye doctor.  I gave a brief show and tell right there in the waiting room after several women wanted to see and touch. 


  1. I think this post is especially enjoyable if I imagine Sly and the Stone wailin' it out as a backdrop ...

  2. I am so happy that someone asked you about the 725. I thought I had missed something someplace and I was going to try going back over your old posts looking for a reference!!
    You are so "deep" intellectually - I love it. I am also in love with the stitching that I can see on these pieces.

  3. how I can make what I do look like me? well isn't that the big question?... the key to the core of communication. i have tremendous sympathy with this post.

  4. Those were lucky folks to be sitting in the Eye Dr's waiting room with you: wish I had been there too!
    You are a treasure!

  5. Thank you for sharing this part of your family and history, it makes the pieces all that much richer, understanding what inspired them. And much better than any of my wild guesses!!
    I'm also jealous of those women in the waiting room- not only are they a feast for the eye, I bet they are a tactile experience too!

  6. I am so very glad you answered that question cause I was wonderin, as I was following your progress along, where you were going with these pieces and what made you start then.
    You state your thought so eloquently too. Can't wait to see all the finished pieces.

  7. Thanks for the family history lesson! What a great legacy for your grandchildren.

  8. yes, yes! love the way you make language in cloth. we are definitely kindred spirits.

  9. Even "knowing" some of your family history, the telling here was so rich and vibrant, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time again.. and like a little kid I wanted to say, "tell it again!" Woman, you are your art.. sometimes I don't know what the story was supposed to be about, but it speaks to me nonetheless.. and like the others I am jealous that I wasn't there for the show n' tell! How freakin' awesome was that?? :-D But that's alright. Ima wait for your personal showing.. and I will jump on that plane with so much excitement (and alcohol in my system) that I won't feel the planes every movement. That day is coming. Mark my words.
    love ya

  10. Knowing the history, motivation, thoughts, etc. really make the series much "more" somehow. I think that is what I like about your art so much, Karoda, there is always always always more than just the fabulous surfaces you create.