It has been a long year, for all of us, and hope and comfort have been in short supply. Thus, we have each been forced to find various ways to sustain ourselves. My way, as I have often talked about before, is my art, my art quilting and my writing. My creative endeavors have gotten me through many difficult periods in my life including this very long year because they are absorbing. Psychologists call it being “in the flow.”
But, flow or not, you can’t create when you are highly distracted, so you have to turn off your phone, tune out the TV, discount social media, and retreat into your own world of work. As chaotic and complicated and troubling as this year has been, some of us have managed to hunker down and produce, thus preserving our sanity and having something worthwhile to show for all these months spent at home. Ideally, we not only save our own sanity, but maybe we also contribute something to the larger community.
“Look to the Light” (above) is created from my own photograph from the Glass Hall of the International Forum in Tokyo. I took this photo years ago when we went to Japan to launch a ship being named in honor of my husband and his work in the international shipping industry. In truth, though we have traveled far and wide, we would probably have not gone to Japan had it not been for this particular honor and opportunity; had we not, what a missed opportunity that would have been! Japan is an exquisite country, and Tokyo a marvel of good manners, good design, and unfailing civility, particularly remarkable in a city of 37+ million people.
My art quilts are usually designed from my own photographs, which are often of places, particularly buildings, with which I have special connections and which have left a lasting impression on me. This particular building in Tokyo did just that. Though the architect, Rafael Viñoly is not Japanese (he is Uruguayan-American), he managed to capture both the simple elegance of the Japanese aesthetic and the structural integrity of a building meant to serve real people in a dense urban environment. I was so struck by this building when I was there, so moved by the experience of being it in, and so uplifted by the sheer beauty of the design, that I have never forgotten it. Nor have I ever abandoned a desire to capture this image in an art quilt.
I have worked on this project most of all of this COVID year. The major challenges, and there were many, were ones of perspective and color values. My foundation photograph was excellent, if I say so myself, but even so, creating a representative piece in a totally different medium, especially in fabric, is not simply a matter of blowing up the image and making a pattern. This structure, after all, has been constructed by a renowned architect, so who am I to try to replicate his genius? But I do try.
For me, the inspirational message of this quilt is the uplifting spirit of hope, of looking out from the darkness up to the light. I have finally, after much difficulty and anxiety, finished it and am submitting it to an international SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Association) competition for an exhibition called “Light.” As usual, I am proud that I made the deadline for submission (end of this month), but I am also proud of the work itself. It may be one of my best, and it is certainly my most memorable and representative 2020 project.
The message here, for myself and everyone else, is best stated by UPS worker Ben Hertle of Maple Grove, MN: “Don’t give in to darkness and fear, there’s beauty everywhere.” (NBC, “Inspiring America” segment, 11/25/20)
And that is my wish for you this Thanksgiving: “Look to the light.”