"Girls Are Strong" is a tribute to my mother Merry Lou Foster Shaw who fought tirelessly for the Equal Rights Amendment when I was growing up. I accompanied her as she went to rallies in Philadelphia and Washington, DC where we marched and she gave speeches.
The names in the background are the names of the 112 females in our family. These are just a few whose lives have been affected by Merry Lou. I don't believe that today's younger generation of women realizes that many of the rights they have are because of women like my mother.
Women are the 51% minority in the United States and the Equal Rights Amendment has never passed.
Technique: Half of the image is dye-painted. One eye is painted, the other is created with quilting. The rest of the imagery is also created with thread. Material: 100% cotton fabrics, wool/polyester batting
Artist Statement Crows have long been considered magical. They are symbols of creation and spiritual strength. I saved a young crow in August 2013. After spending a day with me I was able to get him to a shelter. He was released about 6 weeks later, and then about 10 days after that a crow appeared in our yard. He is in our yard everyday watching. I'm convinced that he is the crow I saved. He is often with 1 or 2 other crows. Since then crows have started appearing in my dreams so I knew they needed to be in my work.
Artist Statement: Blue Men is the nickname given to the nomadic Tuaregs who roam the Sahara desert on their camels. They wear indigo blue turbans which gives their skin a blue tint. This quilt is a tribute to the many Tuareg men I befriended while living in Africa. This is a whole cloth quilt, painted only with blue dye. The many colors of thread in the quilting give it a touch of reality.
Global warming is now a reality. Glaciers are melting and breaking apart, floating to places further and further south. A whole ecosystem is in danger and ocean levels are rising quickly, threatening to submerge land everywhere on our planet. I dreamed of this piece in red. Could it be because of the urgency of this situation?
The drawing of Forest Spirit was made while visiting Milford Sound in New Zealand. Milford Sound is in a rainforest which receives over 272 inches of rain/year. It is one of the wettest places in the world, very lush and beautiful with dozens of waterfalls cascading down the cliffs.
One of the bewildering things to me is the fact that there is very little wildlife in this compact forest. Even though I was told this, I "knew" there were beings hidden among the shadows created by the dense undergrowth and I drew this image while we were there. It is my idea of the forest spirits that I could almost feel peering out of the depths of the vegetation.
In the dream, I was standing at one end of a very large room. At the other end of the room was a huge orange portrait of an African boy. He seemed wise, innocent and mischievous all at the same time. As I walked toward him, I suddenly realized that there were images of many children floating over his face. Images that I couldn't see from the back of the room, children I could only see when I was willing to stand close to the child. The children were from all over the world and in many situations. They were laughing, playing, eating and working. There were also child prostitutes and even a child soldier was represented. The boy (whom I affectionately call Ernest) seemed to be telling me to pay attention to the children in our world, to speak for them and tell their stories, for they are the innocent ones, they are in peril in many places, and they have no voice.
Over the many months I worked on Innocence, I seemed to feel a closeness and compassion for these children. Many of them had come into my life at one time or another. Two of my kids and my niece are in this piece, along with some of their playmates.
Technique: Hand dye-painted with thickened fiber reactive dyes on cotton fabric, machine quilted, polyester batting
Material: 100% cotton fabric, polyester batting
In the spring of 2000, I dreamed of a yellow piece that spoke to me of the continual droughts that threaten so many places on our planet. Our fresh water is precious and limited. This is a worldwide problem that affects us all which is why the images represent four different continents. "Precious Water" is painted with dyes using six values of yellow, then quilted with over 200 different colors of thread.
Technique: Hand dye-painted with thickened fiber reactive dyes using six values of purple dye on cotton fabric, machine quilted with over 200 different colors of thread.
Material: Cotton fabric, wool/polyester batting
In February 2002, I dreamed "Hope For our World". The dream was in purple and Archbishop Tutu was standing in a field. Children from all over the world were approaching him like he was a Pied Piper. The dream seemed to be speaking about World Peace and the Future of our Children. Desmond Tutu represented Hope.
In May of 2005 I was honored to have a meeting with Archbishop Tutu to discuss my dream.
"Hope For Our World" was finished April 16th and I sent an image of it to my daughter. Her response was:
"How ironic that the piece is finally done on a day like today where you can't help feel sad about the world we live in, a world where massacres like the one at Virginia Tech this morning still happen. It makes me think that this piece is there to remind us that even when we wonder what this world is coming to, when we think that there can't possibly be hope in a world with such tragedies, we are reminded of people like Desmond Tutu. People that will fight for peace and never give up... we realize that there still is hope after all."
I was approached by the art initiative called "Through Her Eyes" to create a piece of art work to benefit the organization Women for Women International.
Today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), people are still struggling amidst one of the deadliest wars in all history. Millions have died and new conflicts threaten peace every day. Perhaps worse than the loss of life is the staggering number of human rights violations â€“ torture, mutilation and sexual violence that has occurred against tens of thousands of women and children. This woman seems to be saying Enough! to the turmoil surrounding her.
Organizations like Women for Women International are helping some of these women in their struggle toward recovery and rehabilitation. 50% of the retail price of this piece will go to the organization.
Dimensions: 27 x 72 inches
Technique: Machine appliqued raw edge denim, hand dye-painted accent fabric, machine quilted.
Water reflections intrigue me. While still water can render a perfect mirror image, small ripples or any movement will distort the reflection, often creating a more revealing representation. The imagery in this piece was inspired by a photograph by Simon Jackson.
Technique: Hand dye-painted with thickened fiber reactive dyes
100% cotton fabric, polyester/cotton batting
Karen is a massage therapist. We met on a cruise ship in 2006. She had been trained as a physical therapist in the Philippines and felt she had a gift in her hands. But she couldn’t make a living in her home country so, as millions of other economic refugees, she left the Philippines. She was unhappy on the cruise ship and poured her heart out to me. That night I dreamed this piece in blue. Afterward we met every day and she talked about her aspirations and what was important to her and then gave me permission to create her story. Growing up in Manila, the ocean represented escape for her. From my point of view, the islands had always represented tropical flowers and beautiful beaches. Karen made me see how economic refugees are the sacrificed ones who must leave their homes to support families.
As decades pass, the aged and gnarled trees observe many happenings. We don't think of them as keepers of secrets, but if one could talk, it would have many stories to tell. Just as people grow old and witness the history that is created around them, trees also are the guardians of untold secrets.
The Tuareg people are nomads that live in West Africa. They traditionally carried the goods from North Africa to sub-Saharan Africa on their camels. With the tremendous droughts that have struck Africa in the last 20 years, many nomads have been forced to settle down because they have lost their beautiful herds. Theirs is a lifestyle that is disappearing. This piece has imagery typical of the Tuareg traditions.
Jimmy Carter is a man whom I have admired for many years. He was the first president I was able to vote for back in 1976. Over the years he has proven to be an amazing activist and negotiator for peace and human rights throughout the world. Since artists get to make art that inspires and moves them, I chose to make a piece honoring Mr. Carter. Two of the drawings represent him as President Carter; the third one is when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope I will have the chance to meet him one day.
Wetlands have always intrigued me. When I went to the wetland areas near Charleston, SC in 2003, wonderful childhood memories rushed back into my mind. Playing in the swamps near my grandmother's farm in New Jersey, jumping from grass hump to grass hump so our boots wouldn't get sucked off our feet, hearing the frog songs and catching the salamanders and snakes.
But it was really the cypress "knees" that pushed me to make "Protection". They brought to mind little soldiers standing guard over our wetlands.
Throughout the world we are destroying wetlands with pollution, dams and development.
The wetlands protect us from floods, provide fish and wildlife habitat, control erosion, and protect our water quality and our shorelines. We must, at all cost, be the soldiers who stand at the edge of the waters and protect our wetlands.
Technique: Hand dye-painted with thickened fiber reactive dyes on cotton fabric, machine quilted
Material: Cotton fabric, wool/polyester batting
The imagery in Exodus came to me in a dream I had in 2006. This was at the height of the exodus from Darfur and my white dream made sense to me because of the genocide happening in Sudan. In 2015 there are an estimated 150 million refugees and internationally displaced people worldwide, which is the highest number since WWII. Regardless of how they arrive in a country and for what purpose, these people must be given a chance for a new life where they can live safely.
Our wetlands are in danger and we need to protect them. At least 22 states in the US have lost more than 50% of their original wetlands. When I look at the plants and trees that grow in these swamps, they seem very feminine to me. Wetlands, like women play an integral role in the well being of our society. This piece represents the fragility and the strength of them both.
Artist Statement: A good friend of mine has always had a love affair with silk. She traveled to Thailand to learn how to spin and weave. The base of this quilt is created from Thai silk she brought back, and the women depicted are some of the experts she learned from on this trip.
I am proud to say that "Silk" was awarded the 2012 Master Award for Thread Artistry at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas!
Dimensions: 27 x 37 inches
Technique: Hand-dye-painted fabric, machine-quilted. The image has been created with thread only
This tree inspired me because it grew in extreme conditions. The canyons around it were dry and rocky. The natural desire to survive and endure over the years brings out the beauty and inner strength in all living beings.
In July 2003, I dreamed Baobab Forest. Eight months later the artist statement also appeared in a dream. The word "forest" holds different connotations throughout the world. In North Carolina, one thinks of lush undergrowth and deep greens. In areas where the forest has been cut down or the desert has advanced, just seven trees together would be called a forest. We need to care for our natural resources so the word "forest" can depict once again the abundant greenery our forests once had.
When I lived in Togo, West Africa I learned about Mami Wata. One description of her is as having very fair skin and compelling eyes. Beautiful and seductive, protective yet dangerous, Mami Wata is celebrated throughout much of Africa. She and other related African water spirits all honor the essential sacred nature of water.
We can’t always control what happens in our lives. Health, family, work… It sometimes seems to be more chaotic than we expect. “Letting Go” is about me moving from the chaotic to the peaceful in these last two years.
January 1, 1992, our family was invited to a New Year’s celebration in Mali. The party took place on the sandy banks of the Niger River. Shelters to protect everyone from the sun were built out of straw and bamboo. About two hundred people came and celebrated the new year with music, dance, good food and lots of laughter. This grandfather was there with his granddaughter. He was so loving and gentle with her that I photographed him several times peeling an orange for her. This piece was inspired by my favorite of these photographs.
Technique: hand dye painted, machine quilted, whole cloth quilt except for the border, hats are appliqued over the border
Our daughter studied in Ecuador when she was in college. She volunteered to teach English in a small village in the Andes mountains. We visited her and went to that village where I photographed the children. I was so struck by how old the girls looked and the responsibility that is put upon them at such a young age that I created this piece in their honor. These girls are all under fifteen years of age. This piece is composed of four photographs I combined.
Water is The Source of Life. We sing and dance to it, pray for it, and dream and write about it. Water quenches our thirst, grows our food, washes us, and gives us a means of play and relaxation. As our world becomes more crowded and our resources diminish, our water will become more cherished causing us to rethink our lifestyle.
Technique: Hand dye-painted with thickened fiber reactive dyes, machine pieced border, machine quilted
Material: 100% cotton fabric, Wool batting
Many humanitarian organizations are turning to women to help develop projects to build a stronger Africa. The women are dependable, enthusiastic and hard-working. This quilt was made from a photograph my husband took at a training program he and his organization set up to teach women about running their own businesses. These women are an inspiration to me.
The Sahel is a region just south of the Sahara desert where trees are scarce. One type of tree that grows in this region is the baobab tree, also called the “tree of life” because it provides food, medicine, and shade for the people who live there. The Fulani are nomads and the women are considered to be the most beautiful in West Africa. I met the little girl in orange when I stayed a week in a village in northern Benin in 1996. I had gone there to draw with a friend of mine and this little girl was our constant companion. I chose to combine these images as atribute to the beauty that I discovered in this part of the world.
African babies are never separated from their mothers, which creates a powerful bond that lasts throughout their lives. Before moving to Africa, I had never thought about having children of my own. Our first child was born in a bush hospital in Agou-Nyogbo, Togo. She was delivered by African midwives by the light of a kerosene lamp. This experience and raising our three children in West Africa has had a profound impact on my being a mother. I was pregnant with our first child when I photographed this young mother feeding her baby in a market in Burkina Faso.
An area of natural forest the size of a soccer field is cut down every two seconds, estimates Greenpeace. From lush trees and wildlife to barren fields and deserts, how long will it take before the change becomes irreparable?