I remember always trying to find a theme, a focus for my fiber art. Always difficult when I could see a vision in my head, but didn’t always have the skills I needed to complete the project. I would train myself to try new techniques with every piece. This way, I learned to do many new things.
My friend told me one day that my art wasn’t cohesive, that each piece looked different – not a part of my body of work as a whole. Luckily I had a mentor who did not agree and said she would recognize my work anywhere, even if she didn’t know it was mine.
I was working on a theme, inspiration for a piece for a show at the Jewish Community Center. Since I am not Jewish, I needed to come up with a Jewish theme to be included in the show, run by my mentor. I fuddled around – almost in pain – trying to get the idea of what to do.
Then BAM. I’m sitting in the car waiting for my son to pick up his comic books. I look at the wall of the building across from me and I see what looks like concrete pockets. Hmm. All of a sudden it hit me – I would create The Wall – the wailing wall in Jerusalem that would be a fiber art version of the real Wall. I went home and started plotting.
I wanted the piece to have 3D pockets which were open so that people could put prayers in, just as if they were standing at The Wall. I had lots of muslin which I hand-dyed in browns, light browns and gray. I started cutting out the shapes and I machine sewed them into perfect stone-size pieces, about 8 x 4 – some bigger, some smaller. I put my Wall together using cedar trees at the top of the wall and a full moon in blue. I then put the stones in the Wall, appliqueing each one with an opening on one side. I had to do this flat so I had to work at a table rather than on my lap. The background of the piece was blue with a purple and reddish color – a very abstract cloth.
I worked on this piece solidly for two months. As much as 11 hours a day I would be stitching, unstitching, whatever it took to make it right. I added “moss” using green yarns that were highly textured on the Wall.
I finished this piece on September 13, 1993. My son’s birthday and the day that Arafat and Rabin shook hands with Bill Clinton and agreed to work toward peace. I too was at peace.
The show opened shortly after I finished the piece. My mentor had placed this in a wonderful place – at the end of the first room so that when you came into the gallery, it was the first thing you saw. The spotlight was on the full moon. It was magical.
The curator of the museum gallery understood my need to have this piece be interactive and allowed visitors to place prayers in The Wall. She would take these out every day or so and she faxed the prayers to Jerusalem to have someone place in the Wailing Wall there. In the real Wall.
I have not ever forgotten the powerful good making this huge piece of art gave me. It was eight feet square and it allowed people to pray as if they were in Jerusalem. This is one of my most favorite memories as a fiber artist. This piece is now on permanent exhibition at the Jewish Community Center. I hope people are still sending prayers …………….