2003 - ongoing
social practice, blankets, clothing scraps, wood, string, safety pins, hand stitched
Prayer Banners: REPENT/MERCY/GLORY is a communal vehicle for mourning the losses of war.
Made through a series of sewing circles in homes, on the street and in the gallery, people stitch the names of American and Iraqi citizens who have died in the war onto cloth coffins as an act of prayer and/or petition. The coffins are arranged on banners to spell the words REPENT, MERCY, GLORY and so on. Begun as a response to the war in Iraq and the death of my mother from cancer on Christmas Eve 2003, it is inspired by the Kentucky Graveyard Quilt of 1843 and the Buddhist practice of tonglen.
The essence of tonglen is to breathe in the suffering of another person and to breathe out loving-kindness, compassion, and healing. The act of stitching a name is a meditative act, bringing the participant into a relationship of resonance and compassion with the families of the dead.
Each coffin stitched bears witness to a single life (Iraqi citizens as well as allied forces) lost to war with 30+ minutes of handwork devoted to stitching a coffin in acknowledgement of each sacrifice. With 1200+ names, Prayer Banner: REPENT took 600+ hours to complete. Prayer Banner: MERCY is in progress. Over 1200 people have participated in the project so far.
The words REPENT, MERCY, GLORY are subtly spelled out via the flow of the hand stitched coffins. The words are invisible to the eye on close inspections and difficult to read from a distance. Prayer Banners: REPENT/MERCY/GLORY attempts to reclaim the sacred truth of these words, from the distortions of fundamentalist and nationalist ideologies fueling a "religious" war.
This has become an ongoing project in response to continued war in the middle east. The third banner in the series, Prayer Banner: GLORY, will be made of white coffins on a deep burgundy blanket.