By guest blogger Joe Cunningham—quilt maker, author, speaker and teacher.
SAN FRANCISCO CA A few months ago I saw footage of some ISIS soldiers attacking the art in the palace of Nimrud, the Assyrian capital from 3,000 years ago. I found it so sad and upsetting that some people think that destroying our world cultural heritage somehow makes them better or more holy or something. Oh well, I thought, what can a quilter in San Francisco do about this?
That was when an idea struck me: that I had taken a picture already of a bas relief from the same palace! I thought: this is why you have a computerized longarm, a Handi Quilter with a Prostitcher—to quilt a picture of the same image, so that even if ISIS managed to destroy every rock carving, I would still have it on a quilt!
The Boston Museum of Fine Art has a few pieces of Assyrian art. Like this one:
Bas relief of a winged genius, 883–859 B.C. Near Eastern, Mesopotamian, Assyrian Neo-Assyrian Period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II
With the idea to quilt an image from the palace that was being destroyed, and this picture to draw into my computer, I started working on a quilt top. I knew I wanted a composition that would have a sort of protected refuge within it, surrounded by a chaotic environment and some suggestion of the horror show. Not something beautiful and elegant.
So I started cutting up some striped fabric I had found on a recent tour and sewing it back together to create some chaos. After I had a certain amount of new material created with the stripe, along with a sort of pink linen square for a central place, I could make an background that would work for my purpose.
All it needed now was a red river encircling the shape:
In order to make the quilted image square, I decided it needed the sort of floral border I had seen on other bas reliefs of the period. So I added a strip of that design along the left hand side.
The bearded heads of these figures are heavily stylized:
I loved working on the feathered wing designs, because the feathers were completely foreign to the quilt tradition of feather designs.
And I learned that the software I was using to translate my drawings into quilting designs has an upper limit of complexity when I tried to fill an 18” square area with cuneiform. The computer froze. Only when I cut the design in half could the computer handle it:
All I was trying to do was to render an image of the bas relief, not a duplicate. I allowed myself a fair amount of leeway in the translation from stone to quilting design because there were much different technical needs for each. I simply wanted to make a memorial image of the sculpture. The quilting ends up being difficult to see in most light, but is easily visible when the light is right.
Missed 2015, 72" x 72"
What I am trying to do at all times is to expand the range of expression in my quilts. In my teaching, I am trying to help others do the same. I will never teach “Missed” in a lesson, but I can create an atmosphere where quilters can invent their own ways toward quiltistic freedom.
To visit Joe’s website +click here