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Come See for Yourself.

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Quilt no. 021: No Mercy

“Anxiety, Anxiety you give me no mercy
Grind my teeth smooth and flat in my sleep.”
Against Me!

Quilt no. 021: No Mercy and the Paramount

No Mercy is a quilt about many things.  It is a quilt about quilts. It talks about how basic construction and traditional blocks can be re-purposed to create new compositions and a means for self-expression.

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We understand that, at a base level, a traditional quilt design is a usually compromised of uniform units (blocks) set into a grid. Sometimes it has smaller units (sashing) set between them to create separation and additional pattern. I played with that idea by taking the concept of a four patch block, altering it’s proportions and scale to provide the foundation for flexible patterning.

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It speaks to quilters’ general propensity to use every last piece of fabric, as this entire quilt was pulled from my scrap box, one strip at a time. I used yellow, orange and orange-red fabric scraps leftover from other projects to construct the blocks, figured out how they fit together with scraps of white and off-white. To compose the quilt, I arranged those blocks across my design wall and opted to use pre-cut scrap fabrics as the sashing. I removed the blocks from the traditional grid, opting to play with the ever-pervasive modern alternative grid.

I also opted to face this quilt, the edges of it rolling over slightly to the back. This eliminates the border a binding gives a quilt and causes it to float when viewed. I have used a similar technique for my work before, opting to flush mount photographs instead of framing them.

Quilt no, 021: No Mercy Details

This quilt is also about my very real, very ugly and ever pervasive issues with anxiety. It looks the way anxiety feels to me: an endless and circular loop of ever-firing thoughts, feelings and reactions.

I hear people describe themselves as laid back and I have often wondered what that means. For as far back as I can remember, I have always been high strung, high key, high energy, my brain bouncing from place to place. I have little capacity to chill. It drives me towards work. My past tells me I must worry, must fret, must consider every horrible thing could possibly happen and then to think about them over and over again.

Gulls and Tire Tracks, Asbury Park NJ

But here is what anxiety has taught me: that something isn’t right. Be it the way I am living, what I am doing with my time, the secrets I am keeping. Anxiety tells me when something is wrong and that I should figure out what it is. Anxiety is, in a sense, a way of knowing for me. When I actually listen to what it’s saying, it tells me something I need to know.

Quilt no. 021: No Mercy Scale

I started this quilt in April of this year, brimming over with generalized anxiety about my life, its lack of direction, its lack of focus. I have felt like I’ve bobbed along, always reacting to circumstances, never weighing my options, never thinking. My life spent either being swept along by currents not of my choosing or reacting against them to get out of a situation that I accepted. It does not give one a sense of autonomy to live like this. There is no peace and there is no sense of accomplishment. There is, simply, worry.

Golden Rod on the Beach, Asbury Park, NJ

It’s appropriate, then, that I finished this quilt the week while contemplating an incredibly difficult decision. It was fueled by such hideous things as unmet and lost needs, emotional distance and misplaced malice. There was deep disconnection, unsettled disagreements and heaps of resentment. It felt like drowning.

I returned to the east coast in late September, my favorite time of year to visit. I saw my family and made pierogies, a yearly ritual I cherish. I stayed with my parents, their house my second home. I spent time with my closest friends, in places that they call home. I ate delicious foods that I find to be lacking in Colorado, pastas heavy with sauce, soups thick with vegetables, hard cheeses dusting whatever appropriate. I walked the boardwalk of Asbury Park, the ocean air cool and salty.

Bathed in those comforts, I made that decision, despite an unknown future.

The Paramount and The Atlantic, Asbury Park, NJ.

This time, however, I did not just react, did not just fight against the current. With a plan, I threw myself onto the shore and have been embraced by the community I’ve worked really hard to build.  My anxiety has ebbed. I have washed up, dear reader, with as much grace as one who has spent their entire adult life scraping along the ocean bottom. I do not know where I am going to end up. Where ever it is will be okay, because it is entirely of my own deliberate choices.

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They traded their memories for fairview and acres and never play no pinball or get up pass the breakers.

Casino Facade Silver Ball Museum

On a Sunday two weeks past, we headed into New Jersey, to the shore. I wanted to breathe in the ocean air one last time before the days started to got too short, wanted to gaze out across the ocean to where the curve of the Earth meets the sky, to bang some pleasure machines.

I realized that the things that I love about Asbury Park have disintegrated. It has become dotted with people with more money than I can fathom, crowds push by on the boardwalk, which now has good restaurants and nice shops, instead of silence. I suppose that it is a good thing for the town, since it needs the tax money but Asbury, with it’s promises to me of quiet, sand, desolation has gone away. It is strange. I am not sure where to go now, when I want to run away to the ocean and inhale the promise of summer.

Out Front.

After Asbury there was the expected drive down long strips of highway dotted with businesses in various states of disrepair and the obligatory trip to a Jersey diner. Over fried food and big glasses of soda, I people watched and eavesdropped.

The Runway Lies Ahead like a Great, False Dawn.

The Asbury Convention Center The Old Boardwalk.

A few Saturdays ago, there was a trip to Asbury Park. Again. As I was anxious and bored, I wasn’t up for staying at home so I took off and did some running away. I spent about 6 hours in Asbury Park, looking, photographing and wandering. I ate ice cream. I played pinball. I sat in the sand, looked at the ocean, absorbed sun light. I thought about the idea of endless summer/youth, the end of boardwalk, the texture of ocean. I enamored with the juxtaposition of the culture that exists on the very short boardwalk and the rest of the town. Driving into town to the beach is a little strange, since the town is so ragged.

Remants of the Old Pier. Retirement Home.

On the boardwalk, in this place of eternal summer, there is money, there is polish. In rest of town, there are pawn shops, there are rough edges. It is very quiet and unpopulated outside of the small space between the casino and the convention center. Silence lingers along Kingsley Street, in the green spaces that mark tourist population from the rest. I am interested in the space between the boardwalk and the rest of town. I want to explore it and work around that line, that threshold, that demarcation.

Outside of the running away, I am drawn to Asbury Park because it doesn’t have emotional weight to it, like the places from my past. It feels a lot easier to make images here, to make them without this heaviness in my heart and limbs. It is emotionally exhausting to make images in places loaded with personal history. I realize it is a bit problematic to make images of Asbury Park, because it has been photographed so much. I am not interested in making images that I know exist already; I want to look around them and extract something different.