I am an activist who uses art in my organizing work, and an artist who engages in issues of racial and social justice. As a primarily self-taught textile artist, my work spans the divide between fine art and craft. I believe that traditional textile techniques, particularly quilting, can provide a fertile platform for creating dialog and understanding around complex ideas and issues.
Quilting has a rich history in diverse communities in the US. For generations quilting has created spaces for women to build community, support each other, and organize. I believe that community quilts allow us to tackle overwhelming subjects, like the toll of homicide on marginalized communities in Chicago, and the legacy of violence by the Chicago Police Department. The slow process of stitching occupies our hands and slows our minds. It forces us to travel from the general to the particular. The meditative act of embroidering the name of a single person engenders a kind of radical empathy. Rather than seeing this person as a statistic or a criminal, we take the time to imagine their lives and families, thinking about the people who loved and lost them. Honoring the value and significance of the lives of others, particularly Black people, is the first step to addressing the profound structural injustices in our country today.
Working with anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of people, I have created striking textile pieces that serve as a visual record of the issues at hand, while deepening our relationships with each other and strengthening movements for justice.
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Rachel.a.wallis (at) gmail.com