Susan Moran (MFA 1983)
I have a collection of linens that once belonged to my Great-Aunt Martha, who was a favorite relative when my mother was a child. Aunt Martha was an opera singer with a flamboyant streak, who performed for a time on cruise ships and married a wealthy businessman. It was likely during this period that she purchased some of the hand-embroidered linens I now own. Unfortunately Aunt Martha was swindled out of her fortune after her husband died, and ended up poor in San Francisco, working as a corsetiere.
I wanted to incorporate these various linens into my work but struggled to find a way to both honor and transform them. I thought about the way that such handmade textiles connect me to my ancestors. I thought of how my grandmother also did handwork, and how her frugality led her to darn and patch both cloth and clothing, and how she made use of all manner of yarns and threads, crafting blankets and other decorative items even though she did not consider herself talented or artistic. I thought of the centering process of stitching, and how I have come to make this more and more a part of my work.
On a trip to Europe I became fascinated with the geometric patterning of floors and walls, particularly in the mosques of Istanbul. In reading about this tradition of Arabic design I was particularly struck by an observation that Islamic decorative art does not seek to showcase individual self-expression, but to use the practice of patterning as a means to spiritual experience. This was a powerful concept to me, for although I am not religious, I seek clarity and peace in my daily walks in the woods. Walking is my meditation, and during this time I observe the details of my environment and think about the people, past and present, who give meaning to my life.
Somehow these disparate lines of thought came together for me and resulted in this piece.
This work is featured as part of the 2016 Alumni Exhibition: “Horror Vacui”, on display from July 19 - August 6, 2016 at the Argus II Building in Ann Arbor. Check the exhibition page for dates, times, and hours.