Pieces of Memory

When my father died I began to cut up his clothing. I used the material to create a series of art quilts serving as a testament of his life. I also incorporated linens and clothing from my mother. She died after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for many years. I used my artistic talent, knowledge, and skills to grieving the monumental loss of my parents.

The quilt world has a whole tradition of remembrance quilts. The most current example we are all familiar with is the AIDS Quilt. These remembrance quilts allow a space to reflect, lament, laugh, sigh, smile, weep, and recall. I, like many other quilt makers before me, used my parent's cloth combined with my creative process to get in touch with significant personal memories. The completed pieces remain as a tangible testament of my loved one's threads of life.

Here are three of the pieces:

 
Sadye, Louise, Isadora, and Sarah

Sadye, Louise, Isadora, and Sarah
86"W X 62"H
(larger image)

I am the daughter of Sadye Barniker Shapiro and the granddaughter of Ida Golanty Barniker and Sarah Safier Shapiro. I am also the mother of Isadora Emily Silk and Sarah Lillian Silk. Together we represent four generations of Jewish American women. Our uniquely different lives are individually represented in each of these quilt panels. This four-panel collage quilt was created in 1997. I used the construction of this piece to identify my life both as a mother and a daughter. Each panel represents one of us: my mother with all her charitable pins, my daughter, Iz, with her light hearted playfulness, my daughter, Sarah, with her interest in fashion, and yours truly, with needlework. This piece is now a part of the Western Pennsylvania Heinz History Center Archives.

 
Howie and Weezie

Howie and Weezie
6"W X 6"H
(larger image)

I wanted to do a piece of my Dad and me in the location where I knew him best, behind the cash register at National Record Mart. He, along with his father and two brothers, started the business in the early thirties by selling used records from jukeboxes. There were eight of us third generation children and each of us worked at one of the stores on Saturday, through the Christmas season, and during the summer. I have wonderful memories of us smoozing, snacking, giving change, and wrapping purchases. Everyone working at the Record Mart was on a first name basis and so I called my Dad, Howie, just like everyone who worked with him. This piece was cathartic. I spent two days, making little knots, remembering, and alternately, crying and laughing. This is the representation of our many special times together.

 
Memories I: When I was Young

Memories I:
When I was Young

78"W X 91"H
(larger image)

This is the initial piece constructed soon after my father's death. It was hard to know where to begin. I didn't start out to use the experience to assist my grief. That emerged later. In the beginning it was a struggle to cut off pant legs, sweater sleeves, and decorative touches such as buttons and collars. The cutting and piecing of this material provoked vivid recollections, experienced within a great emotional spectrum. The end result was a child's family view, complete with my two uncles, who were inseparable from my father, my brother, the house we lived in, and me.

The process began by sorting the articles by color and texture. It was a technical challenge because unlike the standard quilter's cotton yard goods, there were many different weights and textures. Bed sheets served as the pattern, hand applique for the base, and hand embroidery as embellishment.

This piece is now on permanent display at the Jewish Association of Aging Charles M. Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Pittsburgh

 

Through this exhibit I allowed the viewer to accompany me through my grieving process. It is not an easy path to watch or absorb. But each of us is a child who must become an adult and finally an orphan who takes on the elder role of society. We have no choice as to how and when this will occur, but we can choose to arise to the occasion using our unique world place to acknowledge, struggle, and accept the next inevitable life plateau.

Big Brother

Big Brother
2001
8"W X 8"H
(larger image)

Sadye and Howie

Sadye and Howie
2001
46"W X 67"H
(larger image)