Last February, “2 Plus 3”, the group of artists that I am a member of was hosting a show on the theme Conflict.  Over the years, I had created artwork that addressed various contoversial topics, especially environmental.  Prior to the exhibit, I was contemplating which of those pieces I would select.  Simultaneously, I and my family were just beginning to make decisions regarding my mom’s care and living arrangements.  The exhibit would have to take a back burner for now, and perhaps I would have to opt out of participating in this one.  When the decision was made to have my mom live in a place where she would be able to get more physical and medical support, we had to begin the task of packing her personal belongings and determining which she would need or want, and which were unnecessary for the moment.  This became a daunting and emotional task, sorting, reminiscing, questioning and deciding.  There is little to prepare someone to categorize a lifetime of accumulation of  material possesions and the various memories attached to them.  By the end of the weekend we were all emotionally drained, not only from this task, but from trying to make life-changing decisions in our mom’s best interest.  The concept that “all the possessions in the world cannot bring you health and happiness” became such an accute reality, concentrated in a single moment. 

Suddenly there was a realization of “Conflict”  in a much more personal and human form than I had previously addressed in my artwork.  There were two areas of conflict that seemed so real to me… one as an heir apparent, to differentiate between the actual objects and the memories attached to them… and the other… that we often fill our worlds with stuff to pacify the inner conflicts we face in our lives. 

My ideas for the exhibit began to solidify in my mind.  With only a few days remaining to prepare my work, I combed through my fabric stash… and pulled out various pieces of vintage linens.  I began by writing some of my thoughts on a linen napkin,then stitched a torn vintage handkercheif over the written area. Various other bits of materials were added including a piece of a decomposing crazy quilt, a piece of a pillow case and some rich, golden brocade fabric. To reflect a nail polish stain on the hanky, hand stitching in shades of red meander through the various pieces.  Charcoal and gold and acrylic paint images of decaying plant roots were drawn over the entire piece, unifying the various discordant parts.  Gold colored grommets were added at the top of  the final composition through which  gold thread connected it to a gold-painted wood molding.

The entire piece, “The Decay of Pretentious Relics” reflected the contradiction between fine luxury and its eventual decay; between possession and loss, between prescence of mind and fading memory.  I stayed up all night, finishing the piece just in time for the deadline, all the time, processing these contradictions though my work.   The opening reception happened to fall on my birthday….I celebrated that I didn’t need more “presents”, but precious memories.

 Below is a quote from South Florida art critic Candice Russell’s review of the Conflict Exhibit.

<“The Decay of Pretentious Relics,” an intriguing fiber work by Andrea Huffman, is cleverly layered with bits of cloth. The interplay of shapes and the suggestion of time’s ravages engage the mind as one’s eyes travel up and down, following the tracery of stitching.>

Link to George Carlin’s comedy routine “Stuff”: