Since 2009, I have experienced horrific events with my health. I have not been able to lay to rest some of these dreadful events that occurred. I have found that sharing my experiences with my husband, my loved ones, talking through it, and even empathizing with others has not given me the closure I seek. Finally, through the Masters of Art Education program, I challenged myself to work through these issues to give myself Internal Justice and accept what happened and be at peace.
I learned to live in constant physical pain because I could not take painkillers and work. There were times I felt no hope, no comfort, and had to find the strength inside to soldier on. Graduate school gave me something to focus on. My parents gave me their time, support, and love. My mother gave me comfort food: biscuits, chicken and dumplings, and pot pies. Besides seeking comfort in food, the other constant in my life was a homemade quilt that my maternal grandmother, Lucille Ainsworth, my Nannie, made for me. I slept under this quilt. I cuddled with it. I cried into it. I was a thirty-year-old with a security blanket, but, to me, it didn't matter. This quilt did comfort me with its warmth, its strength, and the love behind the making of it. It became my symbol of healing.
Inspired by this quilt, I created these artworks because the quilt helped me to find relief from the pain and suffering I endured. I did not know how to make a quilt. I had sewed before, but I had never used those skills to actually make a quilt. Oftentimes, when I was working on my quilts, I felt as if my Nannie was looking over me, and helping me through this, guiding my stitches. It reminded me of reading Creating with Reverence. I was influenced by the Mayan women of Chipas, Mexico. In the Art in Life chapter, where Slus Tonhol, a weaver from Tenejapa, didn't know how to weave and wouldn't be able to learn from her mother or any of the women in her family so she prayed to Santa Lucia for the development of her skills. (Park, 2009). My Nannie was my Santa Lucia.
When I started the process of quilting, I knew that I wanted to use hand-dyed batiks. The batik fabric, to me, had the tender love and attention that no commercial fabric had. I matched the colors of the fabrics to the tiles I had already cut, sanded by hand, drilled holes by hand, fired and glazed. The time intensity that went into this project was equal to the time spent healing my body from my surgeries. When sewing, I would intentionally go back and forth over already completed stitches to create what I call “scar tissue” on my quilts to match the scars over scars I have on my body. I sewed off the line to create uneven stitches to symbolize that the quilts were not perfectly sewn, and neither are the stitches on my body. These quilts are not functional; they are rather a testament to the trauma I have experienced.
I used words and phrases describing the conditions I had suffered to create a series of radial design patterns that are at the center of each quilt square. Each quilt is deeply personal and describes each condition I suffered through, but in an ambiguous way so that no one can truly read what it means. I choose this ambiguous representation because no one will ever really know what I went through. I want to show others who may be suffering, that even if no one can understand, can empathize, they can at least sympathize. Comfort for me was found within something as simple and as beautiful as a quilt I made to deal with my medical past.