Having read Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga – Linda Otto Lipsett the idea of quilts as a starting point became attractive to me, as an opportunity to develop and research ‘The Graveyard Quilt’ further. I wanted to consider the act of making as an aid to mourning or as a cathartic opportunity to positively consider and remember. The object becomes a way of preserving memory or as a reminder of death, a momento mori.
Whilst reading the book I had been looking at and considering The Victorians use of photography to capture and remember loved ones after death. What stuck me particularly was the amount of photographs that had a quilt photographed with the deceased.
Quilts were extremely precious family heirlooms, handed down through generations and were often made using old clothes that in themselves contained the memory of loved ones. Made over long periods of time with love and care, they were ideal to aid the remembrance of those gone before.
During this time I had become interested in what happens to us after death. Philippe Aries had considered that ‘Death’s invisibility enhances its terror’ and so as part of my exploration and fear of death I had started to look at and research the processes of death. I came across some images showing the stains left on fabric and bedding after decomposition had occurred. These images are really fascinating and are surprisingly beautiful, not simply a large bloody stain. They show a ghostly but recognisable human form.
Sarah Sudhoff’s series of photographs ‘At the hour of our death‘ was also inspired by the Aries quote.
Putting all of these ideas together I would like to consider Momento Mori – a reminder that we all die. The idea that through making, the opportunity arises to really think about what makes us uncomfortable and fearful and allows the opportunity to really confront it. And finally a finished item can continue to inform and remind us of deaths inevitability.