A meditation on loss


Editor’s note: this article was previously published by Penland School of Crafts in 2017]
Cloth stains, tears, fades, and wears out,
absorbing and recording our use over time.
Layered into the folds are our own life experiences.
Discarded and auctioned off,
my work begins when the function for these textiles ends.
I find the holes, the mends, and draw attention to them,
peeling all layers back so others can see,
how beauty develops in loss and destruction.
Loss is one of the most profound and universal experiences we share. It can be devastating in its definitive nature. And yet, stripped bare by grief, we often find an unexpected beauty in sorrow. It can allow us to confront truths about others and ourselves that weren’t previously possible to understand. Rachel Meginnes’ new series is a meditation on the sweet and terrible beauty of loss.
Meginnes begins each work by meticulously deconstructing a “cutter quilt,” or a quilt so ragged and worn that its only function is to be cut up and turned into something else. The batting provides a rich and authentic texture upon which the artist applies stains and pigments to create rhythmic fields of color, depth, and pattern. Her interest in preserving the history of the object, it’s rips, tears, holes, and tatters, speaks to the importance of the quilt as an artifact – a relic that reflects the marks of a previous maker and the passage of time.
The process of deconstructing and reconstructing each quilt becomes a metaphor for dealing with loss. With each work the artist is forced to confront a ubiquitous set of questions: What do I hold onto? What do I cover up? And, do I trust myself not to mess it up? Grief, figuring out how to move on, navigating the weight of history without becoming frozen by fear – these are just some of the questions bound up in the structure of Meginnes’ new series.
The final wall hanging is no longer a quilt, an object with distinct layers. Instead the color, surface, and pattern of the cover merge with the batting into a new object, one that is surface and structure, image and form at the same time. Through this transformational artistic process, Meginnes confronts the feelings of loss, grief, and fear, turning old and worn out quilts into artworks of great contemplation, beauty, and grandeur.
For more information, please visit www.plainweavestudios.com.