This Place Called Home
Studios at MASS MoCA
How do we connect to places we inhabit and rewrite our own biographies? “This Place Called Home” is a social engagement project about the histories of U.S. Immigrants. At the Berkshires, I recorded stories and instructed “Quitting Under the Northern Skies,” a two-day quilting workshop, meant to act as a communal and creative safe space for personal narratives about Identity and belonging. The work was on view as a fully immersive and participatory installation at the Open Studios. After an add-call I placed in the local newspaper and published over a course of 12 days, I met immigrants and recorded their stories. Finally, these stories were translated into a collective quilt as well as an audio piece. I pared the interviews with President Trump's The Four Pillars of Immigration Reform, at his first State of the Union Address aired on January 30th of 2018. All published news on Immigration, policies, and reform during the month of April can be accessed in this installation as well.
Much gratitude goes to the Berkshire County community of Immigrants, among them, Toni Bucley, Reinout Van Wagtendonk, Jack Nogueira, and Stephany Borns, for their honest and heart-felt stories. I also would like to thank the Studios at MASS MoCA and the Makers Mill for opening the doors, this opportunity, and full support. This has been a beautiful journey.
This is an on-going project, meant to spread around other locations. The artist will continue to create new rooms and add new squares to the quilt while developing this project in other towns and other communities. This fall, the artist will be interviewing immigrants in Brooklyn, NY. Meanwhile, The Berkshire Quilt will possibly be on view at the Berkshire Immigrant Center.
Quilting Under the Northern Skies: Stitcking together Massachusetts Immigration Histories
They are the products of their society, influenced by the culture, and the environment of the people who made them. The history of America can be seen in the history of quilts. Stitched into these quilts is the rich heritage of thrifty self-sufficient women who helped homestead the land, the history of families sewn into quilts one patch or one stitch at a time, and the legacy of the art of quilting passed on from generation to generation. (www.nps.gov)
American quilts are a living document of the empowerment of Immigrants, especially immigrant women. Quilting became essential in the homes of the earliest immigrant settlers. They had no labor or materials to spare, so they typically found the most straightforward, most expedient solutions to produce home goods to survive the winter, in the beginning, reusing any spare fabric they could find. Massachusetts, as an early colonial port and the home of several Mills, opened its doors to fabrics from England and France. Lately, textile scraps were also incorporated into early quilts.
In conjunction with the Studios of MASS MoCA, the Artist Simone Couto instructed a quilt-making workshop with immigrants currently living in the Berkshire County area. The workshop provided a safe environment for creativity and making where the artist and participants shared knowledge, life experiences, and stories about what makes a place feel like home.