Quilts – WITNESSING

My WITNESSING art unearths buried disability histories.

The Agnews Insane Asylum art pieces, Lost Lives and Hidden Graves,  bring forward two stories: the 107 inmates who died in the 1907 earthquake – and – the decades-long practice of burying inmates in unmarked graves.  Lost Lives presents the inmates as the bricks of the fallen building after the 1906 earthquake. Hidden Graves surrounds the unmarked burial ground with the names of the inmates who died in the 1906 earthquake but whose actual burial places are unknown.

The America’s Class of 2015 quilt and sculpture explore how easily disabled children’s lives are erased when they are murdered by their families. The quilt echoes the classroom photo albums from the annual U.S. practice of “School Photo Day”. As the viewer comes closer the deeper story of the these children, who were all murdered in 2015, emerges. The sculpture has nine squares, similar to the children’s game of Tic-Tac-Toe. The viewer turns each square on a vertical axis to slowly reveal the lost lives of these children.

Large quilt. 4' wide x 6' long. Top third is a faded photograph of collapsing buildings built in the late 1800s. The bottom two-thirds is a pile of bricks with the names of the 107 people who died.

LOST LIVES (2016)

The San Francisco 1906 earthquake destroyed many buildings at the Agnews Insane Asylum trapping inmates inside the locked wards. Although 107 inmates died, historical accounts ignore these deaths.

LOST LIVES (2016)
87 x 44 inches (221 x 112 cm)
fabric, cotton batting, thread
Quilting: Sue Fox
Description: A large grainy newspaper photograph of the collapsed buildings at Agnews covers the top third of this large quilt (87 x 44”). Mottled grey fabric fills the next third. On it are quilted bricks falling down. The lower third of the quilt contains the names of 107 inmates who died in Agnews in the 1906 earthquake written on brick colored fabrics.

HIDDEN GRAVES

After the 1906 earthquake, Agnews Insane Asylum followed their usual practice of burying the inmates in unmarked graves.  The remaining quarter-acre, a former burial area, is intentionally unmarked so as not to negatively impact surrounding real estate prices, according to the Manager of the Asylum grounds.

HIDDEN GRAVES (2016)
87 x 44 inches (221 x 112 cm)
fabric, cotton batting, thread
Quilting: Sue Fox
Description: This large quilt (87 x 44”) shows three photographs printed onto fabric. The photos show a grassy area with a surrounding 4 foot black metal fence. Outside the fence new townhouses can be glimpsed.

AMERICA’S CLASS OF 2015 quilt (2016)
88 x 64 inches (224 x 163 cm)
fabric, cotton batting, thread
Design assistance: Jo Magaraci & Sue Fox
Quilting: Sue Fox
Description: This large quilt (88 x 64″) shows the faces of 14 children of various skin tones. The year of their birth and death (all died in 2015) is written below their pictures. The quilt alternates rows of text and pictures. Row 1: In large lettering states: America’s Class of 2015, Below in smaller lettering: Disabled children murdered by their parents in 2015. Row 2 has 4 photos. Row 3 has one photo and the text: “There is no “mercy” in killing. No explanation that justifies taking a child’s life. It is simply murder. To say otherwise dishonors all the disabled children murdered by the people they love.” Row 4 has 4 photos. Row 5 has one photo and the text: “We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Eulogy for the Murdered Children (1963). Row 6 has 4 photos.

Front of the Witness sculpture. 12 large 12" squares are on a brightly colored frame. Nine different 12" square pivots on a vertical axis (similar to a tic-tac-toe board). On the front side, all squares except the center square have a photos of children who range in age from 2-16. Each photo is surrounded by brightly colored fabrics. The center square reads: America's Class of 2015 with a faint image of an American flag behind the words.

AMERICA’S CLASS OF 2015 sculpture (2016)
40 x 40 x 4 inches (101cm x 101cm x 10cm)
fabric, thread, wood, paint
Construction: Daniel Flaherty
https://youtu.be/uLtTFZ1vfoI

Description: Nine large 12 inch squares are contained in a wooden frame that is painted with primary colors. Each two-sided square spins independently on a vertical axis. On the front side, eight large up-close photos of children of various skin tones surround a center square that reads “America’s Class of 2015. When the eight perimeter squares are turned around, the back side reads: “Mercy / Killing / Mean/ Disabled / People / Killed / By Those / They Love.” The back center square reads: “In 2015 in the United States 28 disabled children and 27 disabled adults were killed by their families.”