Facing Grief

Quilt Index Record: 67-EC-184

Overall Quilt Description

Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Quilts and Health
Mesa, Arizona
Art Quilt
Facing Grief

Overall Quilt Description - condition, inscriptions and fabric source


Specific Description


Quilt Construction - binding, batting, quilting

Allen, Janice L.

Ownership and Contact Information - Quilt maker Family Information

Child Crisis Center
Arizona (AZ)

Image Upload

Detail 1
Detail 2

Data Verification

Lynn Miller

Information source fields

Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
Contributing Institutions
MATRIX: Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University, Michigan State University Museum, Quilt Alliance
Quilt Index
Resource Type

Contest, Exhibits, Essays, journals

September 6, 1992: “Sunday Night with Sandra Mann,” a television program covering sexual trauma and abuse. My quilt, “Facing Grief,” was used as a backdrop at the end of the show to display the times and dates of the Healing Images Art Fest. September 24, 1992, through September 29, 1992: “Healing Images Art Fest,” an art exhibit sponsored by Pikes Peak Mental Health Center, at a local mall. The exhibition was comprised entirely of works by artists who have been victims of sexual trauma. September 25, 1992: Channel 11, KKTV News Reporter, Richard Randell, interviewed me in front of my quilt “Facing Grief,” for the 5 pm and 10pm news. 1992 Healing Images Art Fest, “Facing Grief” October 29, 1992: “Facing Grief” hung at the 1992 Pikes Peak Mental Health Annual Dinner and Meeting, at Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort. The evening was titled “Shine the Light on You,” and I was among the artists receiving special recognition at the banquet. November 8, 1992 through December 6, 1992: “Facing Grief” hung at “The Colorado Quilts and Woodworking Show,” in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. There were eighty entrants and room for only forty pieces to hang in the museum. The quilts were chosen by three judges from the area. 1994: Healing Images Art Fest, “Facing Grief” and “Secrets” 1996: Healing Images Art Fest, “Secrets,” “Facing Grief” and “Now I See” September 2, 1996: Newspaper article, The Gazette Telegraph, City, Region, State News, Section B. An article was written on Sexual Abuse and Trauma, highlighting the Healing Images Art Fest. There is a photograph of me with “Facing Grief.” Air Force Academy, Art Show for Sexual Abuse. The entire triptych series was exhibited. Calhoun County Fair in Calhoun, Colorado. I received a 1st place ribbon for my only entry, “Facing Grief.”
“FACING GRIEF” 1992 This quilt, “Facing Grief,” is actually the second in the Triptych, but the first one I did for the art show. It is hand-appliqued, and hand-quilted with fabric pieces on muslin backing. It includes cottons, tissue lamé, sequins, and rayon ribbon and seed beads, with a touch of glitter to reflect the rays of the sun on her back. Grieving, while very difficult, is key to healing from trauma, and moving toward a healthier life. After I drafted the basic design, I drew that design to scale. Next, I was able to go in search of the right fabric. I knew I needed to find dark and stormy fabrics for the story I was going to tell. I considered multiple pieces of fabric before I chose “just the right ones.” They had to feel right. It was not safe to grieve in my childhood house (Dad said, “You dummy. Stop that damn crying; it is not going to help.”), and I had “stuffed it down” all my life. To look at all the grief I had carried around with me for nearly forty years was overwhelming and frightening. I was afraid it would consume me and that I would become the rageaholic my mom was. Engaging in counseling during this period was most helpful. The fabric I chose was to represent being in a dark, swirling, foreboding, and thunderous storm. Each dark cloud is quilted in a different design to show the storms within the storm. That is what grief looked like to me because I was afraid of it (the abuse and what it all entailed). I felt crazy, out of control, like I was going to die and there was no hope and no light. For me, finding fabrics for my quilt was purely intuitive; based on my “feeling” and interpretation of that piece of fabric print. The heavy grieving I endured to become healthy was depicted with rayon ribbon coming down on the left side of the quilt, like torrents of rain falling, and the seed beads represent the heavy tears. Along the bottom, and to the right side of the quilt, are thin horizontal strips, which represent how I felt after the worst of the storm had passed and I was just sitting there with the realization of it all, and feeling a sort of numbness. I was thrilled when I found fabric that looked like sky and the lighter part of the clouds after the storm ended. I also love the fabric that represented hair for my girl, and then tissue lamé for her dress. It was important for me that her dress be special and pretty since life was not pretty at my house. I visited every cloth and quilt store I could find in Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and any place we traveled during that time frame. I did not want to cook, clean, do laundry, work, or anything else. I wanted only to work on that quilt. It touched something very deep within me, and I knew it was critically important. It grounded me, and I felt a sense of completeness while creating it. The process took seven months; one month to find my fabric, one month to set it to pattern and applique, four-and-a-half months to quilt the dark stormy side (while taking a deep and dark journey through the past), and two weeks to quilt the light side. I used to carry it with me everywhere I went so I could work on it. People would say how beautiful it was and I couldn’t hear that without crying, because it meant my parents lied to me. I am not “a dummy,” and I am gifted in the art of fabric. Notice that two of the sun’s rays are behind the clouds. I want people to know that although the storm is covering part of the sun, once through the storm (the grief), there are sunny and clear skies. The sun is always there, but the storm is all-encompassing and impeding a clear vision of life. One must walk through the grief to experience the sun and clear skies. With the stripes at the bottom, a burden has been lifted and things seem lighter and brighter. Then the sun breaks out and you feel the warmth of the sun on your back, and things appear much more clear and beautiful. The sequins around the sun reflect the light the sun provides. I stood over the quilt with sequins in my hand, and pretending they were pixie dust, sprinkled them on the quilt, then pinned them where they fell and stitched them down. That felt so good. This quilt hung in the first art show in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1992, educating the community on sexual trauma. I had invested so much emotion and energy into making this quilt that I didn’t want to leave it overnight at the art show. If allowed, I would have camped out underneath it the whole time. The show ran for two to three weeks. It was frightening to allow others to see this quilt; like I had stripped bare before the world. The television news covered our art show and my quilt was one of the pieces of art that was featured. At that point I was already on the board for the art show, and very involved with the planning and implementation of the show. During the art show, volunteers assisted and therapists were available, due to the emotional nature of the project. One of the therapists remarked that I should make a banner like Miss America wears, and it should read “Artist,” and I should wear it around the house, at the grocery store, and to church, because I am an artist. So now I can tell you, I am an artist! After the art show I submitted this quilt to the El Paso County Fair in Calhoun, Colorado. A friend of mine, who was a judge on another project at the fair, said she heard they had a hard time deciding on my quilt and how to approach it because it was so different. Eventually, they put a 1st place ribbon on it. I also entered this quilt at the annual Colorado Springs Quilt and Woodworking Show. There were over eighty entrants and they had space for only forty, and mine was one of them. The show ran for a month, and after that show I felt a sense of guilt, as though I had betrayed her. I hung the quilt in my bedroom for six months to reclaim her. They are quilts for sure, but I feel they are more like works of art.
QUILT STORIES I am a survivor of childhood sexual and physical trauma and neglect. I grew up in a family with a raging and physically abusive mother, and a father who was a pedophile and lecturer. Any nurturing I received was from my father, and that was a twisted and toxic attention. I received no love from my mother; but rejection and neglect. As a child, my eyes saw the repetitive cycle of my mother beating on my father, and him crying, getting drunk, and molesting. This was my reality. It took me many years to reach a point when I could verbalize these truths, and honestly deliver them back to my parents, and understand them to be theirs to hold, and not mine. The quilts I will share about hold part of my journey to wellness, as the process of creating them helped me through the perils and discoveries of my path to myself; the self I am apart from, and in spite of, the scars of my childhood. In 1991, I received a flyer in the mail, at my home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, inviting those with histories of sexual trauma to participate in an art show. The idea had been introduced by a therapist who had been working with women with histories of sexual abuse and/or rape, as a means to validate their experiences and their journeys. The art show was intended for their benefit, as well as to educate the public regarding sexual trauma. The first show was in 1992, and continued ever two years for about a decade thereafter. Initially, I considered the flyer and threw it on my desk, thinking what a strange idea it was to endeavor to bring a show of this nature out into the public. However, I didn’t through the flyer away! It waited for me on my desk, and I acknowledged it each day for about two weeks, until I eventually picked it up and, with fear and trepidation, made the call. I did not think of myself as an artist, and I told the person on the phone that I was not an artist, and couldn’t paint, sculpt or write, but I could sew. The answer was “yes,” and fabric could be my medium. Besides the birth of my children, I could recall never having been so excited, happy, and frightened in my life! My spirit must have known I was, in fact, preparing for birth. I had been in therapy already, working through childhood trauma, so the foundation was laid. The process of making the quilts allowed me to delve much deeper in my grief work, and I found myself experiencing a catharsis: a great cleansing and healing. I learned to respect the process and, and moreover to listen and to trust it. (Perhaps that is the most difficult for those whose innate trust was impeded due to abuse and neglect.) I finished a Triptych (a fine art; a set of three that work together to tell a story, and yet may stand alone as individuals.) That first show was my unveiling, and began another leg of my healing journey. I will always be grateful for the difficult and deep waters of that creative process, and the fun and excitement I experienced in completing them. These quilts are considered “Art Therapy Quilts,” for the process they offer the creator; however, like a poem or a painting, they may hold different stories for the beholder, and are therefore works of art in and of themselves. I will try and take you on my journey and the birth of these quilts. I give all the credit to God. He directed my journey and gifted me with the love of sewing, and the spirit and strength to heal and to share.

Why and where was the quilt made; source of info

United States

Detail Images


Additional Records

No additional records