Sebastian Di Mauro | Greenback
7 November – 7 December 2019
My maternal grandparents immigrated to Australia at the turn of the 20th century. Whilst my paternal grandparents and father arrived in Australia in the 1920s. I grew up on a continent far from where they had immigrated–Sicily. My upbringing was a rich experience living between two very different cultures. At four I was bilingual speaking Italian and English. It must have been difficult for my grandparents to comprehend the political incarnations of their new land. Much of their understanding would have come from their children. We lived in tropical far north Queensland until I was 13 when my family moved to Brisbane which is ironically in the same location as Delaware is on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
I have recently immigrated to the USA and am reflecting on my experience of being an immigrant from a country thousands of miles away. I am married to a US citizen who was born and raised in Wilmington Delaware and so I have some understanding of the country I am now living in. During my childhood I watched copious television series from America and these created an image of a country similar to Australia. But the reality is very different. Nothing really prepares you for a new life in a completely different land. Subtleties become exaggerated, loss of self becomes exacerbated with no immediate family or lifelong friends to support and nurture you.
Blankets have been part of my artistic lexicon since 1996 where I used electric blankets splayed on the wall of the gallery. In 2002 I wove blankets from Mountain Ash bark in Victoria whilst on a residency in Warrandyte with Parks Victoria. Metaphorically blankets reference nurturing, protection, comfort and security. I have used US Government military blankets as the ground for quilts I am creating.
Quilt making’s origins lie in Europe but the English and Dutch settlers who migrated to North America brought the tradition with them and quilting took on a new life here in all stratum of society and flourished.
The quilt, as we know it in America, was originally a strictly utilitarian article, born of the necessity of providing warm covers for beds. The earliest American quilts, were intimately connected to everyday life of the early colonists. Those early settlers could not afford to simply discard things when they wore out; necessity required they carefully use their resources.
Therefore, when blankets became worn, they were patched, combined with other fabrics, or used as filler between other blankets. These were not carefully constructed heirlooms, rather they were functional items for the sole purpose of keeping people warm. Now, in another century, quilt making in the early 2000s is still practiced as it always was, though now more for relaxation and artistic merit than out of necessity. ‘Quilts represent American possibilities and opportunities of freedom, democracy, equality, home, community, and individual expression.’ ¹
Money is the binding agent that enables me to survive in the US and appears to be revered differently here than in Australia. Greenbacks can buy almost anything. They illustrate historical elements that have helped solidify this globally influential nation. These notes are the most used in international transactions and is the world’s primary reserve currency. I have stitched these meticulously engraved images found on the reverse side of US dollar bills onto US military blankets of various ranks and climates.
The images on the reverse side of many of the US notes feature significant American buildings. On the $5 note is the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln was renowned for saving the nation and the emancipation of slavery in the USA. The White House (the peoples house) is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States and appears on the $20 note.
The United States Capitol, often called The Capitol, is the home of the United States Congress, and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. The Capitol appears on the $50 bill. The US Treasury, established by an Act of Congress in 1789 is featured on the $10 note. The $100 bill highlights Independence Hall where both the United States Declaration of independence and the United States Constitution were created, debated and adopted. On the $1 note the Great Seal of the United States is highlighted and the reverse of the seal on the left includes a barren landscape dominated by an unfinished pyramid of 13 steps, topped by the Eye of Providence within a triangle. All bills contain the statement ‘In God We Trust’.
There are 6 different quilts in the series each representing the current notes in circulation.
Sebastian Di Mauro
¹ Shaw, Robert. 1995 Quilts: A Living Tradition. Beaux Arts Editions. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates Inc. p7