Although I don't think I'm at all obsessed with death, I seem to have a recurring desire to mark and count the deaths associated with various national tragedies. My first such effort was called Kentucky Graveyard (Iraq) and showed flag-draped coffins for all the Kentucky military who died in Iraq in the first year after our invasion. My second was called Memorial Day and had a flag for each of the U.S. military who died in Iraq through Memorial Day 2008.
Kentucky Graveyard (Iraq)
I've been thinking for a long time about a similar project to count the dead from the coronavirus pandemic. I've seen stories about artists who have put little flags out on lawns to count the dead, those who sew together small fabric bits, and those who make hash marks on fabric or canvas. I thought of two different projects, and today I got started on the first of them.
It's along the lines of my Memorial Day quilt, actually a grid of thousands of tiny quilts the size of postage stamps. Memorial Day had 4,084 little bits, and that was a pretty big project that took three months of fulltime studio work. But the Kentucky coronavirus death count was 2,662 through the end of 2020, and 2,600 little bits seems manageable and yet big enough to make an impact.
Fortunately, when the idea came to mind I had exactly what I needed already in the studio: a big stash of polka-dotted fabrics, which can easily signal either little germs floating about in the air, or the pox marking the afflicted. In fact, I had used a lot of dots in a quilt made several years ago, called Epidemic. (That quilt had a lot of holes in the grid, signifying people lost to the disease.) I took all of this as a sign to make another epidemic quilt.
I've learned so much about how to construct these "postage stamp" quilts after making more than 15,000 little bits over the years. This time I think the construction is going to go faster and more efficiently than I've ever managed before. (I'll tell you more about that as the project progresses.)
I got 164 stamps sewed this afternoon, ready to be stitched into the big grid. Only 2,498 to go...