After living for 50 years in New York City, we moved at the end of January, 2020, into a Quaker retirement community in southeastern Pennsylvania. A lifelong association with Quaker schools had prompted us to seek a progressive community that was based on values of engagement, equality, generosity, lifelong learning, wellness, integrity, and environmental stewardship. At Kendal-Crosslands, we have found all that and more, including the rich artistic community that exists throughout the Brandywine Valley. We are so pleased with our new community that we even moved my 96 year old mother from Cape Cod into the assisted living section on our campus.
Our 500 acres serve as endless inspiration. We have streams, open meadows, wooded hills, and many species of wildlife. We regularly see fox, deer, hawks, flickers, bluebirds, turkey vultures, and woodpeckers. We feast daily on a buffet of natural resources. Because my academic background is both biology and the fine arts, my life has two deep roots: science and art. We live in a paradise of possibility for exploring both passions.
We had just begun to acquaint ourselves with our new community when Covid-19 impacted the world. Our campus went into lock down, and our horizons became very limited. My studio quickly became a sanctuary. Soon after the lock down, however, my husband became very ill (He is okay now!), and our life was severely restricted for six months. During that dark time, I could not be in my studio, and there was no room to paint in our new apartment.
I knew I should not stop working on my art, so I returned to a childhood activity that had sustained me when I had been ill as a child. My mother taught me how to use a sewing machine, and it has been a skill that I have used many times since. I set up my sewing machine on our kitchen table, and I started to sew my paintings. I made a series of collages that I stitched together. No glue. No paint. Just thread, paper, and stitches. From my studio stash, I foraged scraps of paper that I had saved for their beauty. I also cut up my old paintings and journal entries. All of the fragments were mended into a new whole. I felt a deep connection to the process.
The sound of the sewing machine was soothing, and its repetitive motion was meditative. Many associations arose to other parts of my life. Threads connected me to my childhood and to women through the ages. Stitching is women’s work. Women have always mended. They mend hurt feelings, torn clothing, scraped knees, relationships. Stitches are used to close wounds and to reclaim and reassemble fragments.
I could feel the mending process working inside of me. Through the work, I began to heal. As with all honest art, I was able to express my fears, frustrations, and confusion in the pieces I was creating. I found myself empathizing with women throughout history who have needed to remain steadfast during difficult times. I also reconnected to additional roots in my life - feminism and perseverance.
I continue to grow and learn.