Brooklyn is my newest quilt. This quilt, like all of my quilts; Brooklyn has a hidden story. It began with a simple tale and ended up telling a much more complex story. This story exists in both the past and the present.
My vintage portraits like this one; start with well worn pictures that come home to me from extended family, boxes I uncovered after moving and in old albums I inherited . This snapshot was sent in a manilla envelope along with other photographs from my nephew. The collection included professional wedding photographs, a snapshot from a honeymoon in Niagara Falls and several pictures from World War II. This one of my mother in law immediately caught my eye.
The picture was taken in her parent’s backyard when she was barely 20. On the back of the photo she had written a note which read “Like the view!” I imagined this snapshot was sent to her boy friend as he headed to Europe during the second world war. This Italian girl would marry that boy from Brooklyn despite objections from both families for not choosing someone in their community. They would be described by friends as the best looking couple in their small town.
By the time I had selected this photograph for my next project, the world had changed.
A global pandemic was raging and its epicenter was in New York.
The girl in photo has been dead for many years and so has the love of her life. These two were born just after the 1918 pandemic. Now their grandson is living through a pandemic in Brooklyn. The story I am telling in this quilt was now much bigger than my initial idea.
Art can be much more than a pleasing composition or an example of mastering a medium. Art has the capacity to help the artist and possibly an audience process emotion, think more deeply about an issue or be a witness of history for future generations.
Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” is an example of a work of art being much more than a masterful composition. “Guernica” is Picasso’s anti war painting which documents the Nazi bombing of a small Basque town in Spain.
Nazi pilots used the town as a training ground during the Spanish civil war. The bombing was ordered by Spain's dictator Francisco Franco, was a act of war his countries citizens. Picasso's painting demonstrates the horror of war on innocent bystanders.
When I began rethinking my approach to this photograph I took into account the current crisis and the original love story. Using digital editing I blended the figure in the photograph with an easily identifiable New York landmark. The figure was intended to be ethereal, like a ghost which hovers over Brooklyn. Floating in the atmosphere are round shapes that float over the skyline representing the path of the virus.
I have a personal connection to the last big pandemic. I remember my Dad telling me about the 1918 when his family had just moved to San Francisco. He was out of school for a year and spent his time selling newspapers to help out with the family finances. Both his mother and older sister were very sick. Now I worry about our family in New York.
Art helps me think more deeply and process some of that worry. I hope you will all stay safe and stay creative.
Until Next time.......