Textile artist Anna Von Mertens (1973-) creates hand-dyed, hand-stitched quilts that explore the convergence of history, science, art and time. Her quilts bridge the worlds of crafts and conceptual art. She uses dye and cotton fabric instead of paint and canvas, drawing on the traditions of craft-based labor and abstract painting.
Anna Von Mertens worked with international dendrochronologists for this series, culling source images of tree ring cross-sections from studies connecting climate variability and periods of human instability. The events represented in this series—The Fall of the Roman Empire—correlate to periods of drought recorded by the tree rings. The tree rings (and hence the tree) are a stand-in for empire while being, as W.H. Auden puts it, “altogether elsewhere.”
Von Mertens chose singular tree ring images to represent larger, comprehensive studies. The shifting thread color mirrors and highlights historical events. As the Roman Empire begins to fade and the Barbarian Invasions or Migration Period is set in motion, white thread turns to gray then black as the tree ring density increases with the corresponding drying period. However independent we humans like to imagine ourselves, the fate of civilization has always been tied to the realities of nature.
Migrations, Invasions, Plagues and Empires series - hand-dyed, hand-stitched cotton titled “Roman Empire (288-412 AD)”. Dimensions: 77” h x 75” w. (Photo courtesy of Don Tuttle Photography).
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