Upcoming Show at ERICKSON Gallery in Portland, Oregon, April 4-May 2, 2019
Climate Change Quilts
Images of the effects of climate change inundate our screens: floods, forest fires, melting glaciers, displaced people, dying coral reefs, starving polar bears, mourning mother orcas. These quilts are a meditation on our destructive impulse, our inability—so far—to realize what we’ve done, to change our path.
Negative Affirmation Quilts
Each of these negative affirmations has come to me in the last year, as I’m going through a series of shifts in the stories I tell myself about myself. They are my attempts to define care, and love, and friendship, and my own value. They are inspired also by apophatic theology: the process of defining god by what god is not. What does love not look like? What have I accepted as love and care, when it was neither? By what and whose measures have I valued myself?
I had a few guidelines for myself in this series: use scraps from other projects as much as possible; use negatives (no, not, never) or phrase it as a rebuttal (which is why “you are worth much more than your beauty” is here); use reverse appliqué, a technique that involves the removal of fabric to reveal what is underneath—a kind of negative quilting.
“It’s never your job to remain miserable” comes from a Facebook post my friend Nancy Dear wrote about lessons she’s learned from her divorce. “Yes to not knowing why” comes from How to be an Adult in Love by David Richo.
Erotic Selfie Quilts
I’m working to explore the spaces where feminism, traditional craft, and modern communication intersect. I want to see where beauty, sexuality, performance for the male gaze, and being critical of all of these ideas takes me.
In these works, I perform my femme identity, although it’s an identity I struggle with achieving. As if it were a goal, as if I could succeed at it. These quilts begin by taking a “sexy selfie”— the ever-present modern refrain of “send nudes”— and then slowing it down. By taking a fast snap shot (although those are so often posed and fretted upon, art-directed), transferring it first to paper and then to fabric, and then quilting it, I make the digital and ephemeral physical. Comforting even. Yet, the women in these quilts are all missing something. Not one of them is complete, a limb or a head cut off by the frame.
What is the response when the subject of the quilt is also its creator? What happens when a woman makes something beautiful of herself? Is it narcissism? Is it a way to seek validation? Can erotic art be self-critical? What does it mean to be turned on by a quilt? What does it mean to be a sexual being at a time when our rights to control our own bodies are being stripped away?
These quilts were inspired by the photographs of Nan Goldin, the paintings of Jenny Saville, and the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.
Amy Subach lives in Portland, Oregon, with her two kids and dog.
Find more of her work on Instagram at @amysubachart