Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quilts as Memorials - Remembering 9-11





Quilts have a long history as memorials and that has only increased since the last quit revival began in the 1970s and really took off again in the 21st century.  The 9-11 memorial quilts and the Quilts of Valor are just some of the most widely publicized examples.

After reviewing all of the 9-11 quilts that were posted on the ArtQuilt list in October 2001, I sat down and tried to write about my feelings. I was living in Northern Virginia at the time, just outside Washington, D.C.  It was a very traumatic time for all, to say the least. Given that Washington had also been attacked, rumors were rife. 

As a 20 year old, I had lived thru an attempted coup d'├ętat in East Africa in January 1964. That was shortly after Kennedy's assination. I thought the world had fallen apart on both occasions. 

So much terror and tragedy has transpired in world history since 1964 but nothing really holds a candle to the atrocities of the 20th century when millions and millions died under incredibly repressive government regimes and wars. 

All I could think of on 9-11-01 was that it had finally reached American soil as well. A new generation of Americans were now experiencing a wake-up call just like we did when Kennedy was assassinated. How very sad.

I mostly stick to prose and research...very very seldom write poetry. But that night the prose just didn't "work."  So I had to resort to poetry, clumsy and rough though it may be.  (Hiaku it is not!) I use quotation marks liberally on purpose.

At the time I wrote it, I sent it to all the artists on the Art Quilt List who had made a quilt to hang in Houston at Karey Bresenhan's invitation. I decided to post it here this -- the 11th year anniversary -- in honor of all those who perished in 9-11, as well as all those who were injured or helped with the clean-up.








See many of the quilts made to memorialize this day by clicking here.





Karen Alexander
Independent Quilt Historian




Reflections on 9-11 ArtQuilts

How moving each piece of  9-11 art
meditation comes effortlessly as I gaze …
piercing deeply
its metaphorical nature;
expressing that which has no words
yet in spite of
"no words"
striking at the heart of
"unconscious knowing"
in both
heart and head
but
especially
heart

Hearts and heads
another “attempt”
at metaphor…
expression of "universal truths"
that in fact
know “no boundaries”
therefore
never can be
“forever”
captured.

Can
“universal truths”
ever be
"captured"
for
more
than a fleeting moment
even in
art,
poetry,
nature?

Yet,
when "captured"
even for
that “moment”
many do not
recognize it
for what it is;
Again and again “truth”
remains
"invisible in our midst
again…
"hidden behind the veil"
of our blind unknowing.


“Universal truths”
"captured"
by
"fundamentalist,
true-believers"
….

a closed mind…
not
any specific
religion
or philosophy…
suffocates
art.

“Concretized” vision
too easily
“drowns
life”
in its
“striving”
for
“perfection.”
No
room
for “natural”
chaos
and
diversity
in the
temples
of the
“True-Believers.”

No artist need apply here.

What happens then
when “truth” is
"captured”
and
“concretized?"
The concretized
becomes
crusades,
gulags,
ovens,
jihads,…

pulverized concrete blowing in the wind.


Soon
the images
of “horror”
become carriers
of
“universal truths”
themselves.


Tempted
once again
since
September 11
to ask
“THE QUESTION”
with no answer…
"Will we humans ever
'get it'…..
'once and for all'?"


Will we
ever
"discover"
the "vaccine"
that
"innoculates"
future generations
against
the death and destruction
that comes out of
"concretization" of
universal
“spiritual” truths…
“pulverized concrete blowing in the wind?”


I think not.
We’ll
simply continue
to "dance the dance”
of individual
“consciousness,"

bringing
to “fruition”
our
only
“true”
wholely unique
work
of
art…

our
individual
lives.


“One” human being at a time
one “random” act at a time
one “moment” at a time
the “endless” cycle
“being and becoming.”

There
is
nothing new
under
the
sun.

I do not ask
“expecting” answers…


No…
it's just me
playing
with
words…
thoughts…
questions…
because this is
how I express
creative impulses…
how I
attempt to
“integrate”
and process
the “shock”
“anger”
“rage”
at
the "senselessness"
of such
“self-delusion”
projected onto others.

Thank you,
each one of you,
not just for your 9-11 art-quilts,
but for all those
wonderful “images”
that you
bring forth
from
within
yourselves;
giving us not only
a “glimpse” of your
creative “imagination,”
but
a chance
to take a deeper
self-revealing
look
at our own "stuff."

You dare us
to
claim
“responsible” ownership
of
all
the paradoxes
of
our
own
inner
“saints” and “demons”
alike.

Karen B. Alexander
October 27, 2001




9-11 Memorial websites:

Voices of September 11


http://voicesofseptember11.org/dev/index.php




World Trade Center Memorial Quilt



S.T.I.T.C.H.
Stitchers, Through Internet, Touch, Care, Heal
http://www.wtcquilt.com/

"With Needle and Thread, Precious Lives We Hope To Mend."

1 comment:

  1. Very powerful words. I went to the AFAM twice while in NYC last year, and I couldn't look at the 9/11 quilt very long as the tears would stream down my face. It is amazing how it stirs our insides.

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