Foreclosure Quilts: Crafting Contemporary Hardship
March 29, 2012
Communicating America’s foreclosure crisis has been a pervasive topic in the art world, generating everything from large-scale exhibitions at the MoMA to shocking photo essays depicting the ruins of Detroit. For urban-planner-turned-artist Kathryn Clark, her time spent designing ‘New Urbanist’ neighborhoods at Calthrope Associates left her feeling oddly powerless when the housing crisis began sweeping across the country. “It just seemed like here I was, making all these plans, encouraging home ownership with the work that I was doing, yet there was some kind of crack—there was a flaw in the system,” she tells The Atlantic Cities.
For Clark, the spike in foreclosures was reduced to charts and statistics, numbers in newspapers that should alarm those removed from the crisis, but fall short of illustrating the reality of it. “You wouldn’t actually see the real effect of it,” she explained. From this feeling of disconnect, Clark began making her Foreclosure Quilts, delicate collages of fabric that tell the story of America’s fraying neighborhoods. More after the break.
“I began to wonder what it would look like if we made quilts today that expressed our hardship,” she said, “I thought I could make quilts of these foreclosure maps, and it just seemed like a great way to tell a story, and also create a history so that there’s something we can look back on.” Clark realized that quilts have long been objects of “functional memory,” serving both as historical records and visceral works of art.
Her Foreclosure Quilts take from this tradition; Clark pieces together scraps of fabric by hand, referring to aerial maps and meticulously tracking statistics to accurately portray neighborhoods in Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and other blighted cities. She cuts holes in her textiles to depict razed homes and leaves raw edges to communicate the very real fragility of America’s cities. For Clark, the quilts revealed a disquieting pattern of foreclosures, a pattern not just restricted to inner city neighborhoods but also sweeping across the nation’s suburbs.
[All images courtesy the artist]