Exhibit - Textile Monuments - behind the scenes with Valarie Jean Bailey

Last year sometime, my dear friend began talking about her next project for her upcoming exhibit at the Green Hill Center. She told me about her idea for a bottle tree. I think in pictures. So when she mentioned a bottle tree, I thought of the traditional bottle tree that people once used to scare away ghosts. Empty bottles are turned onto tree branches. Then, when the wind blows, the bottles dance and clink against each other. Magical. But not even close to what Valarie Jean had in mind apparently.

But I should remind you that Valarie Jean is an art quilter, and painter. What, I thought, does a bottle tree have to do with quilting? But instead of giving her that blank stare I sometimes get when I'm trying to explain my own art project ideas - I waited. I listened. I watched. And I anticipated.

In our conversations throughout the year, she explained her ideas for the base of the tree. I even donated a few wine bottles, not truly understanding what she was going to come up with. We talked about the best photo paper, and about gates and fences.

During one visit, I sat down with her and looked at images of women on bottles. These were women who had made a difference in the world in a variety of ways. These women were singers, artists, activists, leaders. Still I was not sure what to expect...

Then one Sunday morning I was asked to come by and and help pack bottles as the time for the exhibit grew near. I don't know how many bottles I helped to pack that day, but suffice it to say that it was probably close to 150 or so. I saw the base, and Valarie Jean showed me the quilts, some were still in progress.

This day, there was a feeling in the air. It is as if the spirits of these women had entered this home, and had supported Valarie Jean while she crafted this installation piece - these beautiful quilted pieces, images on and within bottles. All this beauty and strength. It is no understatement when I say that they "spoke" to me that day. Their combined legacy. It is an experience I have never had before. I felt this overwhelming sense of responsiblity, even to pack the bottles with such care so none would break in transit.

This is an immense project that Valarie Jean had undertaken and completed with unbelievable grace under pressure.

If you are in the Greensboro area, please plan to see the Textile Monuments exhibit. If you are not in this area, I have included a link to her interview below.

Green Hill Center: Valarie Jean Bailey

Listen (mp3)

Kudos and much love to you Valarie Jean Bailey!


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