Although the Mother’s Day Project began a little over a year ago, I think of Mother’s Day as an anniversary marker for the journey that began in the spring of 2007.
It was a simple idea. We would, all of us, join together to honor the mothers, daughters, wives and lovers – the female members of the Coalition forces who had died in service to their country while fighting in Iraq. We would stitch their names onto swatches of muslin, and I would complete the process by fashioning a simple tote bag from the stitched names to circulate amongst ourselves as a reminder of the ongoing conflict and the many thousands of dead men, women and children whose names are either unknown or too numerous to fit onto a portable memorial like a tote.
But, something happened along the way. Many, if not most artistic concepts evolve and change over time. Different paths make their presence known. The light shifts, illuminating new possibilities. As someone who is most accustomed to working alone, I seldom take note of these changes in direction. They are part of the artistic process. A given.
However, with so many individuals participating in The Mother’s Day Project (nearly 200 of you!) the weight of responsibility to stay true to my original concept for this project is something I have taken quite seriously. I am therefore more than a bit nervous about announcing some changes, but also excited at some new possibilities and pathways that have evolved from the original idea.
The final phase of The Mother’s Day Project will not be a tote bag that circulates among the contributing stitchers. The construction of the first complete panel of embroidered names has become a work of collage, layers of fabric and hand-applied beading and embroidery that is simply not well-suited to use as any type of bag. It’s too fragile, too physically heavy and, most importantly . . .
It’s too weighted with emotional significance to release into the world with no guaranty that each home it entered would provide the protection it deserves for the sacred object it has become. Sacred, because of all of your individual contributions that are now joined together into a whole.
I’ve come to realize (perhaps more slowly than I should have) that this project – in its entirety – has taken on the weight of a memorial with a capital “M.” It simply would not be fair to the memory of those whose names we’ve stitched, nor to those of you who have contributed to the project to allow the work to be lost in the mail or destroyed or damaged by accident or neglect. Perhaps it was idiotic on my part, but I did not foresee the project coming together in this way, with this amount of significance.
Your Help is Needed
The question now becomes, how to alter this final phase of the project and still honor the spirit of the original idea? It is imperative to me that the final work, the collaborative end point of this journey be placed in a publicly accessible site such as a museum, or a traveling exhibit.
Many of you are artists yourselves. Others have ties to various branches of the military. All of you have invested energy and emotion in this project. I am asking you to give some thought to places in your community, or exhibitions and museums you have knowledge of where this finished project might find a permanent home. Write to me. Give me a contact name if you have one. I will do the follow-up.
I would also like to hear from you about other ideas for carrying on the original concept. Should commercially produced canvas tote bags be imprinted with photos of the finished project and provided to each of the stitchers? Would you prefer a photo of the name you stitched as a personal memento?
Please let me know your thoughts.
And, today, as you celebrate Mother’s Day with your children, your mother and all the women who have played a significant role in your life, I know you will be joining me in remembering everyone who has lost someone in the Iraq War. Hold them in your hearts and continue to work for peace.