A Quilt For My Friend Lee, Who Committed Suicide

A Quilt For My Friend Lee, Who Committed Suicide
Cotton fabric, cotton batting, thread. 17 x 18 inches, 2017.

This quilt has no binding, and the top is attached inside-out, to reflect the unfinished nature of his life. The center square, which traditionally represents the hearth and heart of the home, has been cut out.

Wage Gap Potholder

Quilted fabric, 8 x 8 inches, 2016.
This is 78% of a potholder, to illustrate the gender wage gap in the United States.

I chose a potholder to represent this statistic, because potholders – being so strongly representative of the kitchen – are a quintessential signifier of domesticity. I chose to sew a quilted object because these activities, like many handicrafts, have long been considered “women’s work.”

Of course it must be noted that 78% is just an average. Black women earn only 63%, while Hispanic women earn only 54%.

Bitch Betta Have My Money

Cotton fabric, cotton batting, cotton/polyester thread, buttons. 2017.
This quilt mashes up the violent, misogynist song lyrics sung by Rihanna in her “boss bitch” persona with a quilt.

A quilt as a physical object is just a collection of assembled fabrics. But that collection of fabrics has a deep cultural resonance, and is imbued with a host of emotional meanings. It is the quintessential symbol of domesticity: Femininity, motherhood, female caretaking, and emotional labor.

Rihanna’s hit 2015 song “Bitch Better Have My Money” is classified as “trap music,” a bleak urban style of hip hop characterized by “observations of hardship in the “trap”, street life, poverty, violence and harsh experiences in urban inner city surroundings.”

What happens when these two opposing forces clash? Which one wins? Is the “street language” tamed, or is the quilt despoiled?

(And why are these forces positioned in opposition to each other in the first place?)