I first saw this extraordinary work, A Hard Bed To Lie In (2003) by Helen Gray and Emma Rees at 'The New Quilt 2003', and it has stayed with me ever since as an example of the potential of the quilt form as a powerful medium of expression.
In the weekend of January 18-19 2003, a bush fire raged through the suburbs of Canberradestroying many homes and leaving four people dead.
Both Helen Gray and Emma Rees live in Canberra and their work, A Hard Bed To Lie In is an installation of 500 small houses, individually hand or machine-quilted and displayed on two metal bedsteads. Each house consists of two layers of paper imprinted with plant material local to the suburbs of Canberra destroyed by fire that weekend. It is a work that expresses the magnitude and extent of the personal loss of what happened on those two days.
The work also challenges the meaning of the quilt, while still making clear its association as a bed cover.
The shift in perspective form the life-sized beds to the miniature houses acts to destabilise the viewer, making the loss tangible and the act, one of memorisation.
Images: Helen Gray and Emmna Rees