Jehanne Hale

Artist's Statement

“I am interested in the basics of existence: food, landscape, shapes, coverings. These quilts are an homage to my Quebec heritage and the rich quilting tradition found there. Most notably in recognition of my great Aunt Berthe who, along with her sisters, was an amazing hand sewer, and whose quilts filled our house. I loved the designs on them. There used to be a yellow quilt on my bed.”
  
- Jehanne Hale

Quilts cross the barriers of class, age, and ethnicity. They are tangible, tactile records of women’s lives. Every quilt has its story, reflecting the personality and passion of its maker. Each day the stories continue—a quilt is completed, another is begun and a centuries-old tradition continues.

The history of quilting has as many sides as the complex patterns of the quilts themselves. It is practical in its use of discarded fabrics, nurturing because a person is kept warm and cozy by the product, and there is also a dark side in that many young girls were forced to quilt until their fingers bled to keep their hands from being idle. From the depression era there are heartwarming stories of women from poor struggling families that made quilts, only to donate them to other, even more needy families. Women sewed messages in quilts that contained information for the Underground Railroad, and others embroidered spells to bring bad luck to their husbands.

Quiltmaking is an expression of skill, and a source of empowerment. The patterns can be very sophisticated. Stars, log cabins, tumbling blocks, etc, and original designs are often complex and difficult to execute. For some women, like my ancestors in Quebec, Canada, warm quilts could mean survival for their families.

Bees, like quiltmakers, are also skilled at creating patterns, are resourseful, and the majority of the bees are female. The symbol of the bee goes back to ancient Mesopotamia, where the Bee Goddess was worshipped. She was appreciated for being industrious, fertile, and for producing nectar that was extremely desirable. The Oracle at Delphi was shaped like a beehive, it would transmit universal truths through the strictly-female sage. Many millions of bees (from all over the continent) labored tirelessly to create the raw “fabric” for this sculpture, replacing the multicolored fibers (from all over the world) that might have been used in a traditional quilt.

 

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