Wide Borders Series


About the Wide Borders Series

My Russian Mennonite ancestors traversed the borders of many countries (Friesland, Prussia, Russia, and Canada) while fleeing religious persecution and seeking fertile farmland. I, too, have wandered in search of intellectual and artistic freedom, and adventure. As a non-conformist, I did not fit in with my small rural Mennonite community of origin, where art and artists were viewed with suspicion. Being different placed me outside of my family, culture, and community, but gave me autonomy. Only as an outsider, can a Mennonite freely pursue an art career: in my exile, I found sanctuary.

Healing, transition, and transformation occur in “discomfort zones,” those fluid, tolerant places between Mennonite and mainstream society, art and craft, and black and white. From the safe neutral zone, an observer views culture and society with perspective. Within the fringes of acceptance, I map the social, cultural, psychological and physical barriers that divide people and separate individuals from their communities of origin, through a topography of fabric, dye, and thread. What brings these “aliens” together, and how do they forge new identities and create meaning within wide borders? Does difference or non-conformity define those who gather within the interstices of mainstream society and their ethnic, cultural and religious communities? How do those who have left because of discrimination, ostracism, violence or war forgive the individuals or groups by which they were displaced? As I made the Forgiveness, Sanctuary/Exile, and Red quilts, I asked myself these questions. There is still much to consider within wide borders.

Karen Thiessen