46 x 1332” hand-stitched cotton and found textiles 2015, 2018
Mesa Art Center, Mesa, AZ 2015
Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT 2015
Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence, KS 2016
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, San Jose, CA 2018
Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT 2019
Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 2019
In April 2014, I was selected to create an installation for the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum’s Dr. Ruth Tan Lim Project Room. As an embroidery artist, filling 72 linear feet of wall space with hand-stitched imagery would be my largest project to date. I began by designing an idealized landscape with a big blue sky, green grass, and puffy white clouds. Researching ways of depicting cloud forms led me to thinking about clouds as water vapor and then water vapor as greenhouse gas. Other clouds—volcanic plumes, mushroom clouds, emissions from factories and puffs rising from the cooling towers of nuclear reactors—drew my attention as well.
My previous work centered on intimate figurative narratives, Dick-and-Jane style kids in semi-autobiographical scenes from my childhood. I was raised in Pennsylvania—the land of coal and steel and industrial waste. The more I researched, the more I knew I had to include pollution, both seen and unseen, from my personal landscape.
I grew up in the 10-mile evacuation radius of Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, PA. The Limerick towers could be seen from the windows of my middle school classroom. My friends and I swam in the bathtub-warm water downstream from the power plant. The Schuylkill River, once dubbed America’s foulest river, was cleaned up in the 40’s and 50’s—this meant the coal silt was dredged from the river and dumped in an area we kids would later call ‘The Black Desert’. After a day of riding our bikes through the Black Desert, we had to hose off the black silt before we’d be allowed in the house. On Thanksgiving trips to Grandma’s, my father would make a short detour through Centralia, so the family could check on the progress of the underground coal fire that had been burning there since 1962.
I stitched these natural and manmade disasters into my landscape and continued to research. Maps and illustrations drew me to include portolan lines and vanishing points—adding movement and a linear design element and poking fun at my tendency towards flat representation. I generated a list of terms and places picked up from headlines, news stories, and research, and this text became a ticker informing the scenes. The world I made is still beautiful, but the impact of human consumption and waste is everywhere.