After years of grief, despair, and internalized questioning, my current body of work is a welcome return to love, joy, and comfort. Handmade quilts and clothing are manifestations of love. My mother and grandmother crafted these items for their families, so with my recent work I pay tribute to the lineage of women makers I come from. While admiring my late grandmother Petra Barrios Guerra’s patchwork quilt, I had the revelation that I’m also many disparate parts brought together. In her colorful fabrics I see my multiple selves: a ﬁlmmaker and photographer, a poet and songwriter, a maker and artist — all joined together in a peculiar harmony.
Over the last several years I’ve worn dresses almost exclusively, a signiﬁcant shift from the tomboy style I’d had since childhood. I’m interested in dresses as symbols of beauty and femininity as a gender-ﬂuid, queer person. I brieﬂy pursued dressmaking, but I realized the most satisfaction I found was in ripping my worn dresses apart at the seams and sewing together textile collages from the pieces. Like my grandmother’s patchwork quilt, my resulting series of “quilt dresses” are made from fabrics readily available to me, cut apart, reconﬁgured, and sewn back together. They may visually take the form of dresses, but they are unwearable, ﬁxed when quilted. Materially, the completed quilts are saturated with personal memories I have from once wearing the three to six diﬀerent dresses they’re each made from and are a way of seeing my various selves together at once.
A phrase I often reﬂect on is, “making something from nothing”, which my father used to articulate my grandmother’s creativity with limited means. With this in mind, I’ve created my quilt dresses by repurposing nearly every dress in my closet. I’ve hung this series on a clothesline tied to the original poles from my grandmother’s former backyard in the southeast side of San Antonio. With this work I’m channeling the image of the dresses my grandma sewed for her ﬁve daughters and the quilts she made for her ﬁve sons hanging to dry on a long line across her yard and contemplating the striking contrast of her life as a mother of ten children to my life as a woman who has chosen not to have children. My work attempts to satisfy my desire to express maternal love through making, as the woman before me have, and answer the question I’ve often asked myself as a childless woman, “Where does all that love go?”.
Art Production Funding Provided by the 2023 City of San Antonio Project Grant for Individual Artists