New “Charting Loss” Series on Climate Change

I have embarked on a new fiber art series entitled “Charting Loss,” about climate change. My aim is to explore all that is or has been lost already due to the climbing global temperatures and the havoc they are wreaking on fragile ecosystems around the globe.

I’ve struggled with the idea of this series for awhile because I don’t want to convey doom and gloom and inspire hopelessness about climate change. At the same time, it is so easy to shut your mind to what is happening and what it means for the coming generation. We need to face it with honesty. Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge what we are losing, to grieve for it, and honor it, even as we try to fight what is happening. I think quilts and fiber art are perfect mediums for this as they are as much archive as art. There is also historical precedent in the form of bereavement quilts. Because I’m exploring my own grief in this series as much as anything.

First up is this piece entitled “Polar Extremes,” a reference to extreme temperatures, their effects on polar regions the polarized politics in the U.S. which have produced societal paralysis on this and so many other important issues.

The source for this quilt is a map from NOAA showing the summer sea ice in the Arctic in 2020 along with the median. It shows a troubling difference in the two lines. I just imagine thousands of miles of open water where once there was ice.

I’m trying to use on-hand and second hand materials for this series in the interests of sustainability. This map is reverse appliqué. The sea ice, text, and median line are all hand-embroidered.

I used white floss for the ice, which created a nice shine. In the areas where it is most white I used wool. The median line was created with yellow floss in satin stitch.

I used a couple of scraps of a polar bear print in the border. It looks hella corny but that’s the point. When I worked in a library, seeing all the cute polar bears in children’s books felt like we were selling four-year-olds a huge scam. And everywhere you look, there are cute polar bears, on pjs, mugs, and lots of quilting fabric. Given the big picture reality in the Arctic, where polar bears are starving, our fetish of them is disturbing and dissonant, in my opinion.

There is so much going on in the world today. As the wildfires, heatwaves, and hurricanes give way to the relative relief of fall and winter, I hope updates on this series will help to keep this issue in people’s minds. We are at a moment of no return and that is not hyperbole.

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