Thursday, September 17, 2015

Background noises

I have received a commission to make a queen-bed sized quilt as a wedding present, and the need is pretty imminent: to have the top finished by mid October at the latest. It’s not a complicated block, and I’m moving through it pretty fast. Nevertheless I glance back at the Living Universe quilt on the easel and play with at odd moments, allowing myself to keep the flame alive. 

The background space seems to have a long time manifesting itself, and I am conscious of the need to keep placement of the symbols to be used within the frame. I am surprised about the demands of what I have thought of as the ‘background’, having expected decisions about how to represent Jan's request for her Cancer birth sign, the Pleiades star cluster and her love of firecrackers might demand more attention. Clearly the background structure is the springboard on which to place the the icons representing Jan's relationship and feeling for the cosmos. The result is that I unpick machine-stitched sections and replace them with other fabrics, having 'tested' them visually in a variety of spaces in the overall composition on the easel, as the symbols Jan has requested drift in and out of my consciousness, without taking on a clear form, nor a position as yet. I am curious as to why the ‘background’ to the Universe story seems to be demanding such attention – then realise that the background is the context for the myriads of unfolding stories: a living Universe cannot be ‘backgrounded’. So, maybe more work needs to be done here before attending to the development and placement of the symbolic icons.

While I had thought the background had finished evolving, it keeps on manifesting , with more detail. I’m encouraged by a piece of fabric which looks like a field of wildflowers. This is the flourishing that we as Earth inhabitants know to be the effect of our particular position in the living Universe. Home Earth, as the daughter of our star, the Sun, supports myriads of life-forms. Looking again at the balance of the colour, newly introduced by the floral carpet, the bold orange red of the 'flaring forth' seems to be too dominant, for something that occurred over 15 billion years ago. Huh, – how to tell the story of the evolution of the Universe! How to imagine that and then represent it, and to know that it is still occurring in our expanding Universe. Nevertheless, with these few alterations, I think I am finally satisfied that the background is no longer in flux.

Not quite yet! On taking another look, I notice a small oversight at each of the corners, especially the right hand and bottom borders, which seem unfinished, and therefore the piece is un-contained. Although the context is limitless space, I become aware that something is needed to pull the composition into a confined space, that of my bring it back to Earth. Below is its final form. including a slightly diminished firey hint of the 'flaring forth' of the Universe over fifteen billion years ago, and the resultant flourishing of so many life-forms on Earth many billions of years later in the shape of a floral ellipse (a shape since early times symbolising the space of the life source, the female vulva, or 'vesica piscis'). Another rim of fire has been added, representing our planet's allurement to Sun, and that of other planets in our solar system. Withe the starry corners containing the background, I now feel set to start paying attention to the formation and position of the symbols that Jan wants in her quilt and any others that might come to the fore.

Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, (1992), The Universe Story, NY:Orbis
Barbara Walker, (1988), The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, San Francisco:Harper & Row

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