kathryn clark foreclosure quilts

December 22, 2011

Modesto, CA – tea stained voile, linen, cotton and embroidery thread. 16″x42″

Several days ago, I chanced upon the art of Kathryn Clark, who left me a note in my comments. When I went to her website, I was immediately struck by the quality of the work. Not your politely stitched coverlets, Kathryn’s quilts are dramatic and raw. And although all Kathryn’s work is stunning, it was her foreclosure series that evoked the strongest reaction in me.

A former urban planner, Kathryn was “acutely aware” of how big an impact the foreclosure crisis would have on US communities. In order to visually capture this disruption, she began a collection of birds-eye-view map quilts which depict foreclosed and abandoned properties in neighborhoods throughout the US.

Looking at Kathryn’s work you become viscerally aware of the devastating affect of the housing crisis, in which whole towns have become riddled with lost homes. Ripped, torn and pricked, these quilts blatantly illustrate how this tragedy has literally left holes in the fabric of society. While the entire piece makes you cognizant of the crisis on the community level, at the same time the details draw your attention in, reminding of the individuals who have been affected.

And yet, pervading all, there is a quiet beauty, a delicacy that suggests not so much fragility, but impermanence – this too shall pass. The push and pull of Kathryn’s work, the tension between beauty and adversity, makes her foreclosure series completely evocative and moving. And when you consider the history of quilting – a craft itself born out of hardship, when people made warm covers out of whatever scraps they could find – Kathryn’s work is all the more arresting.

Modesto detail

Kathryn’s work table with Albuquerque and Phoenix

Atlanta – 19 1/2″ x 19 1/2″. Recycled denim, bleached linen, cheesecloth, yarn and embroidery thread

Cape Coral Boro detail


“A map of the Forest Hills neighborhood in Cleveland, OH. The navy rectangles represent foreclosed or abandoned lots. The green applique patches show where community gardens have been planted on top of empty lots. The patterned fabric is called “Forest Hills” and features bucolic scenes of suburbia with quaint houses and frolicing deer.”

Cleveland,  detail of community garden map

“Cleveland has over 500 community gardens that have popped up throughout the city, oftentimes built on top of abandoned and reclaimed land.”

Kathryn’s work will be featured in New American Paintings, No. 97 Pacific Coast Edition, January 2012 and Uppercase Magazine, Issue 12, January 2012.

You can read more about the individual works in Kathryn’s foreclosure series as well as other projects on her blog.

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