Back in September, when I was sitting in services for the High Holidays, I noticed a phrase in Psukei D’Zimrah (the first part of the morning service) that I never payed attention to before. The translation in Machzor Lev Shalem was “My bones cry out to you….” Immediately, I knew that I wanted to use this text for an art piece – most likely about homelessness.
I kept this in the back of my mind while working on other pieces and then Hurricane Sandy hit and I knew it was time to put the text to use. I searched for images to accompany the text and came across some powerful photographs by Theodore Parisienne, who graciously gave me permission to use his images in my piece and sent me high resolution versions of the pictures. I printed one image on Extravorganza and sent the other one to Spoonflower to be printed a bit larger on cotton. When I had the images on fabric, I was ready to put it all together.
Unfortunately, when I looked back for the text, I was disappointed to learn that the translation in the machzor wasn’t a literal translation of the Hebrew. The quote comes from Psalms 35:10 and a more accurate translation is “All my bones shall say….” Not quite as dramatic as I had hoped. Where could I find a text that actually captured the original feeling – of crying out to God from every part of oneself? I started with Psalms and finally found it in Psalms 130:1 which begins “From the Depths, I call to You….” I painted the text using red fabric paint on a white sheer fabric that would be placed over the photographs.
With the text and pictures in hand, it was time to make the piece … but now Hurricane Sandy felt like a lifetime ago because of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. My nephew is a first grader there and, while he is safe and doing well, several of his friends were not as lucky. I took some time away from the studio to be with family and help out as much as I could and considered abandoning this piece in favor of one about Sandy Hook. I am not yet ready to create that piece, however, and a December 30 deadline was looming, so I forced myself to return to the original plan. (A piece about Sandy Hook will most likely be coming, but I need to get a little more distance from it so I can reflect and create something meaningful.)
So back to the previous Sandy. I took the larger image and added a black and grey border. The image on the left below shows this stage wrapped around a 24″ x 18″ canvas which I was planning to mount it on. The image on the right below shows the second picture which was printed on sheer fabric placed over the larger image.
Next, I had to decide the order of the layering. Should the words cover both images or should the image of a young boy among the rubble be on top? I took pictures of both options (again on the canvas) so I could see what they would look like from a distance. After moving the image of the boy back and forth and back and forth and … you get the idea, I finally decided that the composition worked better with the boy under the layer with the words (below right).
So I sewed the boy to the large image and layered the piece with batting and a solid black backing fabric. And then it was time for another decision: how to quilt the piece? I printed a picture of the piece several times and experimented with different possibilities in pencil and decided to use a free-motion zig-zag stitch in smoke thread (which is almost clear). I was going to do this quilting in the borders and just slightly onto the edges of the images. After quilting most of two sides, however, I decided that it would be better to cover the whole piece in quilting, leaving only the boy and the words untouched. A detail of the quilting is below.
The final decision was how to finish the piece. The canvas wasn’t working since it cut off too much of the black border, so I decided to add a sleeve to the back for hanging. But did it need a binding or should I simply finish it with a facing? And exactly how much of the border should remain? I played with the border size and auditioned a binding made of the same fabric as the border (though it looks different since it’s over the sheer) and decided to go with it.
The final piece is below – and in plenty of time for the Dec 30 deadline!