Heirlooms is a series of quilts and smaller process works that present multilayered narratives, each encoded with a pattern that invites us to unpack and investigate the tangled cords of systemic racism that have betrayed America’s proclaimed values since its inception.
Referencing inherited objects and traditions, DARNstudio creates dialogue around ideas and beliefs passed down that are insidious and morally abject. Our national inheritance includes an altogether darker component that is at the root of, or exacerbates every societal ill that plagues our contemporary social consciousness. This inheritance is our history of slavery; its lasting, ongoing impact; and the racism invented and indoctrinated to justify it.
On the surface, the work, much like the erstwhile grain elevator in which it is installed, invokes timeworn agrarian ideals centering human industry and a sentimental yearning for days past. Both the traditional quilt, a precious keepsake passed down through generations, and the grain elevator, once rising steeple-like in small towns across our rural landscape, speak to a simplified, homogenized notion of America depicted in art and music and reified as national identity. This show, removed from a traditional art context and sited in this mill-cum-gallery, opens itself to alternate, more nuanced, if not challenging, interpretations.
DARNstudio embarked upon Another Country: A Quilt Cycle in 2016. A series-in-process of thirteen quilts made of custom made souvenir matchbooks, the project is inspired by the Underground Railroad quilts whose secret codes were allegedly used as signposts to help the enslaved seeking freedom and safe(r) haven in the North. Each quilt in the cycle is composed of approximately 2,800 matchbooks whose covers bear logos memorializing the place where an unarmed black victim of police violence, stand-your-ground policy, and/or racial terrorism was killed. The backs of the matchbooks contain alphanumeric codes comprised of the first and last initial of the victim and date of their deaths. Like their abolitionist antecedents, these quilts serve as talisman-like artifacts, with their stitched together matchbooks acting as a kind of map, inviting us to decipher their patterns and meanings.
Heirlooms brings together six of the "Another Country" quilts into reclaimed space, made sacred by holding room for reflection and remembrance while asking us to contemplate: “what heirlooms will we leave for future generations?”