The theme was "Forced to Flee," in the most general sense, a look at immigration. I began with some solar prints of a photograph I had taken of people walking and standing around: the feet. I had other photos of things left at the curb, lamps and books, so I made prints from those as well. My goal was to make a kind of checkerboard with positive and negative images and in two different colors and to make all the corners line up, a technical challenge as well. I did that, for the most part, and then was stuck; the little patchwork was pretty small. Luckily, I started this project months in advance. All the printed cloth went into a bag, and I put it away. For the moment. To incubate.
Eventually, I found it was the form that wasn't working. I wanted to put a face on the individual, what it feels like, and how it connects to those who are physically safe in their own houses, or to those not safe in homes for psychological or emotional reasons. And then there were the fires in northern California. So much displacement for so many different reasons. A garment seemed a better fit. A jacket or coat. With pockets. Imagining running out the door and stuffing things inside. A garment to cover a person, to house a person, to serve as a shelter, perhaps. And as a metaphor.
In the 1990s, I had made a couple of Japanese-style hanten jackets from a book I no longer own, Make Your Own Japanese Clothes: Patterns and Ideas for Modern Wear. I still had the jacket I made for myself, so I pulled it out and studied it.
photo by V
It needed some stitching. My slow brain couldn't remember a word and looked it up as I visualized it: "marking time with lines of bundled sticks." Tally marks! Of course. How we count, how we began to count long ago when fingers and toes weren't enough. Groups of fives. I stitched those with the eco-dyed linen thread on the lighter side of the front panel, then added the natural color for variation. I like the look of marks and irregular lines to show the hand, that a person was here.
And in a graphite gray on the darker side of the front panel.
A long, slow hand-sew on the collar.
In this case, the form was all important to firing up the creative process. It just didn't want to be a rectangle.
The back panels are printed: "Other / Mother / Brother / Another." I also wanted it to embody human dignity. Inside, there are pockets, and the inner bottom panels say: "I ask / I do not beg."
Any of us could be in this position, as Other, as traveler against our will, a stranger. And even if we weren't, then perhaps we could step into another's clothes and understand what it means to ask,
"Where Is My Home When My Home Turns Against Me?"
That's what stirs me up.