Both water and fabric flow. Both cover. Both can conceal, reveal, and shift.
At its core, Pacific Quilt is a conceptual project taking textile form. It’s the first quilt I’ve ever made, and I started working on it soon after moving back to the US Midwest after years living on various coasts. So there’s longing in this piece: to take the ocean with me, to bring it inside, and to juxtapose my daily life and routines with its entirety. As an indoor object, my hope is that Pacific Quilt might embody some of the vastness and mystery already existing in everyday lives and relationships. It’s an intermediary sculpture linking my bedroom to the ocean, and vice versa, and I see it existing within the tradition of land art, with a connection to site-specific works created in those expansive landscapes of the western US.
I also made this quilt as a performative object, to be lived and wrestled with. It’s designed to be used as functional bedding, but with such a large size it won’t fit into most bedrooms. In fact, it will easily cover a bed, flow onto the floor, flood the room, and spill out the door. I tried to be as accurate as possible in the translation of ocean to quilt, with varying shades of blue to convey bathymetry, and quilting lines to describe surface currents.
Over the past five years, my hands have touched every inch of the Pacific Ocean – every deep sea trench, seamount, current, and coastline. This long process of making the quilt (sometimes with assistance, but usually alone), has become meaningful and feels appropriate for the project’s scope: it wouldn’t be an ocean if I could make it in a month. Quilts are often created intentionally for generations yet to come, and as I’ve worked, I’ve thought about this future. Coastlines will be changed as the water rises.
Special thanks to the assistants who’ve helped work on this piece over the years: Maggie Willsey, Jeannine Shinoda, Dominique Haller, Rebecca Lessem, April Bergstrom, and Mariah Tate Klemens. This project was made possible by a generous fellowship from the Efroymson Family Fund, with support from UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.