The media has done a great job lately of talking about the migrant crisis happening in Europe. The one thing they haven't dug much into, until recently, is what the people are fleeing. At the bottom of this post, you'll find an interesting mapping project showing the migrant flow through Europe. You can really see the paths the migrants have taken.
The one thing the media hasn't dug much into though, until recently, is what the people are fleeing. We knew it was about instability in the Middle East, specifically Syria. And talk of Assad and Isis as causes. But I wanted to go backwards in time to better understand what led to this instability. I came across a great book about the rapid rise of Isis, "The Isis Apocolypse." William McCants goes into great detail about the growth of Isis, how Assad turned a convienient blind eye and what life is like for those under Isis's rule. Read this great overview here.
There have also been a lot of references to WWII with regard to the current mass migration. Well, it's starting to look a lot like WWII in the making in Syria as well. The power Isis holds in Syria draws some similarities to Hitler's early rise to power in Germany, albeit far more brutal. People have been turning a lot of blind eyes. I think with the Paris attacks, that might have changed. I'd been feeling a bit uneasy in making this new work about the migration through Europe, sitting over here in the U.S. safe and cozy. But it's just time to get to work and do my job, which is simply sharing the data I've found and presenting it through my work. My quirky obsession with maps and an interest in the concepts of home and rootedness once again comes together.
I had to step away from the work for a few days to sort it out in my mind. I used to worry when I went through these phases. I know my process well enough by now to know I just needed to wait for the answer to present itself to me. I realized that I need to work deeper in each of these pieces just as I had to do with my foreclosure quilts, and once again by hand. The images above are my attempt at sharing a more specific journey of the migrants. The examples above are of Petra Laszlo, a TV camerawoman, who tripped a migrant fleeing police inside Hungary. I've decided to imbed the images that pertain to my specific geographic area within each piece, telling a story about what occurred where. I just heard someone mention 'embroidery as historical documentation' which makes me want to research this concept more.
I've been struggling with what to call this new series. Aerial Landscapes? Border Control? Emotional Terrain? My new series hovers between a physical map of Europe's borders and the emotional turmoil of the migrants crossing the borders. Not like I could relate at all to what these migrants are enduring but I want to dig into what goes through their minds as they cross this physical terrain, inching closer to freedom and, hopefully peace, every day. What happens when they see that border fence? Is it terror because it's closed or relief because they're one step closer to a new, and hopefully better, life. What have they left behind? I can't even comprehend the emotions around that.
There's a delicate balance between the physical and emotional worlds in these pieces I'm making. Each decision is carefully considered. Do I want to show something physical here (like a lake or a river) or do I want to show an emotional hurdle? Is there a way to show both at the same time? What do these migrants see when they come upon a river or a lake? Frustration that they have to go around it or happiness to see something beautiful. I have this strange longing to jump into the landscape the migrants are experiencing and see it first hand. It's how I want to see through this new body of work.
After so many successful years blogging about craft artists, I succumbed to Instagram. The one thing that Instagram doesn't have though is space to discuss one's work, hence a new blog to track my musings on my art and process in the studio.
After putting my Foreclosure Quilts to rest earlier this year with the culmination of my Washington DC quilt shipping off to live in the Smithsonian (!), I was eager to jump on a new body of work. And it's coming together but it needs some elaboration to go with it that Instagram just doesn't provide.
So stay tuned for a bigger picture about my new series of aerial landscapes about the border controls happening in Europe right now.