Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Soldier Emerges

I'm afraid my ideas on this theme far exceeded my capability to showcase them.

About 16 years ago my husband joined the army. Our relationship had begun about three years prior, so I knew him as a civilian first. As he made the transition into military life, I wasn't always nearby and for the first few years found it very difficult to understand this new society which he had joined. At about the same time, I was reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. A lightbulb went off in my head that the process by which one is inducted into the military is just a variation of the myriad other rites of passage such as from boy to man, from outsider to insider, from maiden to mother, from neophyte to master, etc.

And that is what I wanted to express: the metamorphosis from civilian to soldier. I found it a lot easier to say than to do though. After many fits and starts, I finally determined that the essence of the change is the breaking down of the civilian life and the subsequent building up of the military one (with it's requisite mores, rites, hierarchies, and language).



The denim background represents the civilian life, the worn areas are where it's breaking down. On top of that is a soldier created from "building blocks." Those blocks are the fabric of army uniforms spanning the past 16 years. I suspect that without the description it would be hard to divine anything other than a portrait of a soldier though. Although I wish I could have expressed my ideas more directly, I am quite pleased with how well the portrait reads. It was an interesting exercise to try to convey a recognizable type of person with the least amount of squares.

18 comments:

JoAnne said...

Wow, Kristin! I can't believe how great a portrait you were able to capture with squares of cammo/army fabric. That is so incredible!

Diane Perin Hock said...

Kristin, you have tackled a complicated subject -- but as usual you've done it beautifully. It really does depict a soldier -- and you've managed to convey the lack of individuality and the dissolving into something general and symbolic. I love how you can use fabric to convey not only such complex ideas, but also ones with such deep personal resonance to you.

Jeannie said...

Wow! If I take my specs off, the figure morphs even more and I can see two images in the main figure. (No, I didn't take mind altering drugs, just my eyes are wonky this morning.) I love how you depicted the movement from civilian to military. (I dated a guy who joined the Marines a couple of years into our relationship. Wow! Talk about mind changing rituals! Our relationship didn't survive.)

Sandy said...

You have definitely managed to show more than just a portrait of a soldier. By using the blue jeans, I think you have really shown the idea of leaving the past behind and being the same person yet changed.

and like others said, you also show the symbolic identity...it could be anyone's husband, partner, son, brother. There is a lot of connection and meaning there.
Sandy in the UK

Helen Conway said...

This really reflects your skill as an artist and it made me quite emotional. i am half way through listening to Soldiers Wife by Joanna Trollope on Audible, which deals with the transition for the soldier of being on active duty to suddenly returning home to domesticity and how hard that is. i was already thinking of you going through that and it seems you were thinking the same things. I love how the cloth you used has the story imbued in it. Is there a partner quilt about the transformation from girlfriend to army wife?

cauchy09 said...

Oh, i love this subject, your interpretation of the theme, and the way you used your fabrics. great job!

Karen said...

This is so poignant Kristin, the blue jeans to army fatigues really tells the story, and I agree, the portrait reads well.

Jenny Bowker said...

Beautiful.

Terri Stegmiller said...

You've given me another look at metamorphosis that I would never have thought of. What a brilliant idea and I think the way you executed it is just wonderful.

Kristin L said...

Wow, thank you all! I am glad that it is reading better than I had anticipated.

It's funny Helen that you ask about a partner piece. Part of my fits and starts was trying to convey my journey from regular civilian to military spouse. All that came across though was civilian to service member, so I decided to just stick to that and use the more stereotypical male soldier.

Deborah Boschert said...

I love squinting at it and letting more and more details emerge. Amazing. I'm curious about your process. You must have used a photo of some kind and pixellated it. But then you still had to choose just the right bit of fabric for each square. It's really so effective. It would be an interesting fabric portrait even without the concept of moving from civilian to military, but that makes it so much more narrative and deep. As a military wife myself, it really makes me think about many of the changes I've gone through over the years.

Gerrie said...

What I see, at first glance is how blurred the edges are as the soldier goes from civilian to soldier and back. And like Deborah said, when you squint, he comes into focus. I like that this fits into your overall point of view as an artist. Bravo! I want to see this in person.

Carol said...

I like to think of this piece as continuous metamorphosis. The pieces of uniform fabric will become worn also, especially in the face as the soldier continues to choose to be on the path of the hero. Thanks for creating it.

Renate said...

Poigniant portrait of the change each person must surely go through to join the ranks of military service. Wonderful choice of fabrics, understated yet recognizable.

Terry said...

Wow. A lot of emotional content here. The portrait is so effective, both generic and individual at the same time, then I really get a little grab at my heart with the closeup of the bits of fabric, clearly recognizable as clothing with an actual history. This could make me cry. Really.

kirsty said...

Kristin, the quilts that you have made with Art's uniforms make me cry. I had quite a little meltdown over your Twelve quilt and this one is just as potent.

Fitzy said...

I sincerely appreciate every kernal of thought you put into this.

This is one of those pieces that gives me loss for words.

amazing.

Natalya Aikens said...

ah there she goes that Kristin...tackling another sensitive, emotional, difficult subject with grace, artistry, crafts(wo)manship and beauty! You go girl!