Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Fabric of Memory

click to enlarge
Recently, I went to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center with some friends. I had been to the museum before, but I really wanted to see the featured quilt show, entitled The Fabric of Memory. The photo above gives an explanation about the show and those involved. Below is a sampling of the small, art quilts in the exhibit.

Daily Chores
Linda MacDonald
Powell, WY
The tag for Daily Chores stated, "My inspiration for this piece is the human spirit and how we can make the best of any situation. As detainees adjusted to their new life at Heart Mountain, they continued their daily chores, including wash day and gardening. They built raised containers for vegetable on the hillside and raised crops on the flats. These farming techniques were so successful that their crops supplied other relocation camps with fresh food, as well. 

The clothes drying in the breeze are made from actual Japanese kimono scraps." 

Peaceful Internees
Carolyn Aichele
Lovell, WY
 On the tag: "Trapped in old Wyoming barbed wire are origami fabric cranes, representing the Americans of Japanese descent illegally imprisoned at Heart Mountain Internment Center.

One of the reasons this project resonates with me is my personal experience with unfair childhood incarceration. As an 8-year old foster child, I was incarcerated behind barbed wire at a juvenile detention facility in Oregon."

The Children
Jeanne Knudsen
Cody, WY
On the tag: "Over 127,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II under Executive Order 9066. Half of these U.S. citizens were children.

It is heartbreaking to imagine how 'Mother' and 'Father' felt not knowing where they would be sent, what the conditions would be, would the children stay with them or be separated. I imagine there was a lot of worry and concern for all of the family.

Many of the photos at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center are of the children. Although the circumstances were extremely hard for anyone imprisoned illegally, I found that in many of the photos the children were playing baseball, marbles, running and doing schoolwork. I wanted to show that side of the camp in my art. The children of these camps are now grown. Many have had very successful lives. And that, reminds me of a quote:  'Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.' CS Lewis"

Nidoto Nai Yoni
"Let It Not Happen Again"

Jan Hoar
Cody, WY
 On the tag: "My quilt is a timeline: The 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor is the oil spill at the top of the quilt. (2-9 qts/day still seep from the wreckage of the USS Arizona.) The subsequent 1942 internment of Japanese Americans is represented by buttons (people) being railroaded through an angry and confused orange world and into a dark hole/barracks. The freeing of Japanese Americans from Heart Mountain Internment Camp in 1946 is represented by the scattering of buttons and celebratory yarn. They are going home. The U.S. apologized to these Japanese Americans in 1988. Wisdom (finally)!

I created this quilt with Shibori dyed fabric, photo art and acrylic paint on fabric, yarn and buttons."

Healing Heart
Alice Flyr
Cody, WY
 On the tag: "Heart Mountain is a landmark that has witnessed both geologic and human events. May its name remind us that only love endures."

One Suitcase
Carol Kolf
Sheridan, WY
On the tag: "In 1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in 'exclusion zones' where U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were to be removed. This ultimately led to the incarceration of 110,000 Japanese American citizens.

These American citizens with Japanese ancestry were allowed to fill ONE SUITCASE when they were taken from their homes, their jobs, their possessions and their business and brought to an unknown place with meager accommodations."

Note: the quilting on the blue background states, Executive Order 9066.

Only What You Can Carry
Jan Wilbur
Cody, WY
 On the tag: "Each time I've visited Heart Mountain Interpretive Center the piles of luggage in various locations of the museum have remained in my thoughts. 'Only what you can carry' echoes in my mind as I consider the limited time the internees had to make important decisions with very little information about the future. They had no idea of what lay ahead. 

I wonder what they chose to pack without knowing where they were going or how long they would be away from home. Each person was given a tag listing their family name and number. In addition to these, I've added their barrack assignment on the back of each tag on my art quilt. 

I think about what I would take. Keepsakes? Extra clothing? Important documents? What would you choose to carry in your bag if you had to leave home for an undetermined place and time?"

 * * *

The exhibit was impressive, and the pieces in this post are only a fraction of those on display.

An earlier post about the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center can be seen here.


  1. A beautiful way to tell this tragic story.

  2. These beautiful art quilts are an amazing storytelling device. We must never forget this piece of our American story.

  3. Those quilts are amazing.

    Our country proclaims itself to be accepting of all and a compassionate nation --- and yet, history proves time and again this is not alway so.

    The first quilt is the one that touches MY heart. In all situations we do what we must do.

  4. I love the CHILDREN and I am An AMERICAN. One tragic.

  5. I'm so glad you shared these photos. I would love to visit the site one day - I've read so much about it. There are things that our nation simply needs to remember. As great the US is - we are not infallible.

  6. American History, it may not have been fair but it was a hostile environment perhaps they were safer in the camps than they were out of them:(

  7. One of our best friends was in one of the internment camps as a child. He was fortunate to be able to stay with his whole family and says he has some good memories of those times because his family was able to shelter him to some extent. He is a patriotic American and is not bitter though he has every right to be so. I never want to see that happen to another person in this country! We can't let that happen again!!

  8. Wow, each one tells it's own story.


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