FIRE IN THE SERENGETI
Collection: Collection of Artist
Dimensions: 37″ H x 51″ W
Technique: Hand and machine appliqué, Machine quilted, Hand beaded
My brother Steven committed suicide in October 1982.
Rather than deal with my feelings, I buried them. I did talk about him to almost everyone who became or was my friend--his death was such a part of who I am. I need to talk things out to understand them, but talking wasn't enough.
I thought about Fire in the Serengeti on and off for over a year before I was ready to make it. Everything is symbolic, from which elephants have eyes, where the elephants are looking, and whom the groupings of elephants represent. In the upper left the young elephants are looking at the fire--kids seem to always know what is going on. The older group on the bottom right represents adults who are involved with their work. The lack of eyes in the elephant on fire represents the state of my brother's mind at the time. If he could see, he wouldn't be in the fire! If you notice, the spirit elephant in the upper right sky has eyes and can now see.
There is a lot of handwork in this quilt. I hadn't done much handwork at all before. I think all the handwork allowed me to process my buried emotions. I was even afraid of finishing the quilt. I think I was concerned about what would happen. I cried a lot as I appliquéd. It was especially hard to add the fire around the elephant.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to look at the quilt when I finished it. All I was seeing was my feelings: anger, sadness, pain. I am pleased to say that not only can I stand to look at the quilt, it hangs in my bedroom.
The process was successful. I talked with many people about my brother while assembling this quilt, including contacting those who were closest to him whom I did not know. I'm not finished dealing with my brother's death. I still think of him every day, but I have progressed farther than I would have without doing the quilt.