Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Studio Series: Red: Red Star

Red: Red Star © Karen Thiessen; Photo Credit: Julian Beveridge
While making the Red series I was researching my Russian Mennonite history. Four of my great-grandparents and all four grandparents fled south Russia (present-day Ukraine) in the 1920s, and eventually all made it to Ontario. Their stories read like a good suspense novel and I count my lucky stars that they made it out alive (pun unintended). The red star, along with the hammer and sickle, were prominent Soviet symbols at the time. My grandfather, an avid story-teller, described the collective relief that rippled through cattle cars of Mennonites as they passed through the Red Gate from Russia to Latvia. Oh how I wish I had a good detailed photograph of the ornate gate that was a portal to freedom. Once the train passed through the gate, the Mennonites sang Nun Danket Alle Gott (Now Thank We All Our God) in four-part harmony and broke out their rations of roasted Zwieback to celebrate.

I dyed the golden fabrics with onion skins from Nova Scotia farmer Ted Hutten. The background striped fabric was my studio curtain in a previous house. The red star is pieced from rust-stained and painted fabrics and then appliquéd to the densely stitched gold panel. Red Star was exhibited in Red at the Textile Museum of Canada in 2001 and is now in the permanent collection of the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. If you wish, you can read more about the Red Series here.

1 comment:

Judy Martin said...

A beautiful piece, Karen.
I think the stories of our ancestors are inspiring.
My father and his mother came over from Finland in the 20s.