We must use what we have to invent what we desire. —Adrienne Rich
alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination
Prairie Skin, a work in progress, is a life-size, reversible, pieced and quilted construction which is large enough to wrap a body.
Part of my Mapping Nebraska project, this piece is informed by my travels across the state and my memory of its prairies and grasslands.
I remember my first art teacher’s teacher telling me about a nomadic tribe whose cradles (carried on their backs) functioned also as “portable shrouds” because so many infants died. I want this Prairie Skin to also be portable and to have multiple functions: shelter and shroud, commentary and covering, record and map.
In the British Museum in the 80’s, the Rosetta Stone was not (at least in my memory) encased in glass but sat open to the air. As I stood beside it and imagined touching its incisions, another tourist, part of a small group identified by matching bags, began filming the stone with a video camera. At this time, before smart phones and digital cameras, I rarely saw anyone using a video camera in public.
The stone was motionless. It did not vibrate. The stone was silent. It did not hum. The air was still. No dust stirred. The afternoon light was even and unchanging.
The rest of the group was talking quietly, their comments echoing what I was thinking but not saying aloud (“Look, it’s the Rosetta Stone! It’s old! It’s the key! It’s It’s smaller—larger—different—just as I imagined.”)
Section 73A Nebraska City South Table Creek
When I stitch the landscape
Travel its contours
Carving a canyon
Traversing a slope
Subduing low-lying land with hatching
My fabric terrain is neutral
Colorless and abstracted, like the map,
except for the water
which is stitched in blue
Listen to more at http://chirb.it/rkJ8s6
How many creeks have I drawn on my Locator Map? Every one that I could see. I’d look at a topographic map and draw with pencil on 12 inch squares of Tyvek. I would branch off from a river and continue, my line growing finer and fainter, until the creek, and my line, disappeared.
Locator Map detail
I began to love those meandering lines, that tracery that became denser and then more spare, that branched past the towns and railroads, that stretched, yearning, into open ground.
Little Cedar, Big Cedar, Dry Cedar Creek, Clear Creek, Skull Creek, Bloody Creek, Ash Creek, Elm Creek, Box Elder, Silver Valley.