Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

'Love Will Nail You To The Cross'

Love Will Nail You To The Cross (1995-1997)
Judy McDermott



140 x 200cm, cotton, silk and linen fabrics. Cotton, silk, rayon and metallic threads. Cotton batting. Machine pieced. Machine and hand quilted. 

Exhibition history:

The Big House--Go To Gaol , Object Galleries, Customs House, Sydney NSW, 1999

Go To Gaol II, Fibre Design Gallery, Goulburn NSW, 1999

Piecing a Quilt if Life, May 2003-April 2004 USA

Judy McDermott, Speaking For Themselves, Manly Art Gallery & Museum NSW, 2008


This is one of the 'Big House:Go To Gaol quilts,' a series which explored Judy's experience of travelling from her home set on the edge of the bush to work at Long Bay Gaol; a journey  from her house to the 'Big House' (and 'home', as she pointed out, for the inmates). She resisted the temptation to 'embellish', 'mend' or 'make better' in the telling of her stories, which are as complex in construction as the quilts she made in order to tell them. (1)
In this particular quilt, Judy examines suffering (through love) of those left on the 'outside' while a family member did time on the 'inside'. 
The photographs which document the making of this quilt reveal it to follow the traditional 'frame' layout created by pieced 'frames' or border around a central panel which worked from the centre outwards:

Judy's working process involved a critical engagement with the medium 'from within' the practice of quiltmaking. Her works, so determinedly 'quilts', actively engage in a dialog with the conventional discourses with the medium--those discourses of home, house, family and, the place of the individual (particularly the woman) within them. In doing so, she tapped into the narratives of nostalgia and obfuscation and managed to break these open, revealing alternative realities within. And from within the practice of quiltmaking (which she considered:"... a particularly appropriate form of artistic expression for women") Judy de-constructed conventional notions of the collective and the nameless, replacing these with the personally political and the outspoken.(2) 
Love Will Nail You To The Cross is a quilt which explores the bed as a site where the alternatives of safety/violation, security/betrayal and, dream/nightmare can occur. Themes of familiarity, dislocation and imprisonment apparent in the fractured and splintered frames of the quilt suggest all is not as it should be.
The hand-stitched central panel s framed by and within the realities of physical union and the possibilities of betrayal and abandonment.  The outer frames form boundaries between inside and outside, keeping those on the outside safe from those who have committed crimes against society. Firmly stitched and joined, the stitched motifs and words consolidate the position held by those who sit in judgement. (3)

(detail: complexity of frames)

(detail:  framing to central panel)

   (detail central panel: machine &  hand stitching)

Notes: (1) Judy was artist-in-residence at the Gunnery Studios Woolloomooloo, Sydney for three months in 1995, it was here she she began her 'Big House' series.
First a potter and teacher of pottery at Long Bay Gaol from 1982-2002, Judy took up quiltmaking in 1989
(2) Judy McDermott, catalog essay , Women's Work: The New Quilt (2001) Manly Art Gallery & Museum
(3)A summary of  'conclusions' to Seeking The Shadows , a thesis for Master of Art  Theory,  UNSW,  (2005)


Lost Birds Series:  house & home, language (vernacularjail birds/prisoners),  site, (doing) time

Reconfiguring the Wall: Containment, home/asylum, institutions, narratives hidden/fragmented, site, social (non)conformity, text, (doing) time

The Big House: Go To Gaol series

The following are also quilts from the 'Big House' series along with Judy's comments (from the list of the Big House quilts and their details Judy gave me in 2000):

Crosses for Eddie Purantatameri (1995-1997)
145 x 180 cm
Aboriginal Tiwi and Jimmy Pike printed cotton and rayon. A little of her blueprint 
and indigo dyeing, and found fabrics. Cotton, rayon and metallic threads. Woollen batting.
Machine pieced. Hand and machine quilted. 
"Eddie Puruntatameri, the eminent Tiwi potter, died young in 1995. (You don't see many old Tiwi men). The back of the quilt is also a celebration of his potting. (I've been a potter longer than I've been a quilter).
This is a transition piece. Eddie is not gaol. I heard of his death as I was moving into the Gunnery. It is the first piece from the studio." 

Palimpsest (1995-1998) diptych
200 x 110 cm
Op-shop cottons, cotton batting,. Metallic, cotton and rayon threads.
 Machine pieced. Machine quilted.

Palimpsest (other side)

"The from of this quilt is based on three design elements: gaol bars, the layers of words of the criminal system, dislocation. The heavy quilting is almost-understandable script, shiny and spiky. The back is a large cross, layered with now-you-see-it-now-you-don't near-words, near-messages. The piece is designed to hang banner-like from an over-the-top slot, and speaks loudest if you can see both sides. (I've been a pottery teacher in Long Bay Gaol for many years.
 This is one of the last pieces."

Bed of Roses, Crown of Thorns (1995-1997)
160 x  125cm
Cotton, silk and linen fabrics. Cotton, silk, rayon and metallic threads.
Fabric paint. Cotton batting.
Machine pieced, Machine and hand quilted.

All in Black and White #1 (1995-1998)
125 x 140 cm
Cotton fabrics, cotton, rayon and silk threads. Woollen batting.
Machine pieced. Hand and machine quilted.

All in Black and White #2 (1995-1998)
135 x 115 cm)
Cotton fabrics, cotton, rayon and silk threads. Woollen batting.
Machine pieced. Hand and machine quilted.

Barred! (1995-1997)
140 x 46 cm
Cotton, silk and linen fabrics. Line thread. Woollen batting.
Machine pieced . Hand quilted.

I See Red #3 (1995-1998)
115 x 56 cm
Cotton and linen fabrics. Cotton and 100-yr-old silk threads.
Woollen batting. Macine pieced. Machine and hand cobbled.

Maze #2 (1995-1998)
140 x 125 cm
Cotton, silk and liene (some indigo dyed) fabrics. Fabric paint. Cotton thread.
Woollen batting. Machine pieced. Stenciled spikes. Machine quilted.

 [All images A. Payne]
See also: The Big House

Restorative Justice

In the US one in 31 adults is under some form of correctional control and one in a hundred adults is in gaol.

In a article in a recent issue of american craft (June/July 2010), Meribah Knight describes a visit to the Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum-security state prison where male inmates can volunteer for a number of activities, including quiltmaking, as a way of giving back something to society. The quilts are given away or auctioned for charity and last year raised $7,000.
"Now, they say, quilting quiets their minds and helps rectify their pasts" (p57) and JCCC has the lowest rate of misconduct and violence when compared to other facilities of the same or lesser security around the state (p60).

Meribah Knight, 'Breaking Patterns: Prisoners Piece Together Their Lives One Quilt Block at a Time', in american craft(June/July 2010) 57-60

Judy McDermott taught pottery to inmates at Long Bay Gaol, Malabar (a suburb of Sydney). Her quilt series, 'The Big House' first exhibited in 1999, explores her experience of travelling from her home north of Sydney to the gaol.

Judy McDermott, Go To Gaol (diptych) 1995-1998
#2 110x75cm, #1 100x60cm
(Photograph A Payne)

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