Healing Blanket from The Patchwork Healing Blanket: Piece-by-Piece and Country-by-Country at the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) (all images courtesy the artists and SPARC)

Last year, Mexico City saw mass protests led by women against femicide. In 2019 alone, 10 women were murdered every day in Mexico. Protesters developed all sorts of creative tactics, including scattering pink glitter on the streets and on monuments; one art collective wrote the names of femicide victims on the streets. Curator Marietta Bernstorff also started an initiative of her own, called “Patchwork Healing Blanket/La Manta de Curacíon.” Together with a group of women artists from Oaxaca and Mexico City, Bernstroff invited women across Mexico and the world to make “a patchwork cloth piece that speaks out against the violent crimes we are all witnessing.”

They received a flood of replies, and a total of 600 patchworks were sent to Mexico City from places like Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Tijuana, Greece, Spain, Canada, and the US. The moving results will soon be on view in a virtual gallery at the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), based out of Venice, California. Among the patches on view are ones that are painted, embroidered, and digitally printed, incorporating portraits of children and colorful words sewn one by one (“Speak,” “Forgive,” “Heal”). “Making these pieces was a form of healing for most of the women as they thought about their personal life, or their mothers or grandmothers life who had no voice,” Bernstorff observed over email. Some are memorials, others are adamant calls for action (“Stop Violence”). They are, above all, celebrations and affirmations of women’s lives.

Virtual Gallery view

The opening of The Patchwork Healing Blanket: Piece-by-Piece and Country-by-Country takes place this Saturday, August 8, and you’ll get to go on a special Zoom tour led by Bernstorff, who curated the exhibition. She will also participate in a conversation with artists Lourdes Almeida, Jimena Cancino, Marianne Sadowski, and Dorothy Thursby, in which they’ll discuss textile art as a form of resistance to gender-based violence. They will also touch on the tragic pertinence of this topic, as domestic violence has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sewing at Casa del Tiempo

Bernstorff has been teaching women patchwork for the past 12 years. In the town of San Francisco Tanivet, in Oaxaca, she works with women whose husbands and children have fled poverty in search of opportunities in the US. “Women were left alone unsure of the money coming in or what was happening to their families in the USA,” Bernstorff said. Bernstorff decided to start a group called MAMAZ Collective (standing for “mujeres artistas y el maíz” or “women artists and corn”) and teach the women patchwork methods. As a result, they were able to create something “aesthetically beautiful” that they could also sell to help them make a living.

Zócalo, Mexico City

Bernstorff shared that SPARC had initially hoped to stage the event in the spirit of how they had shown the project in Mexico City in January, where blankets were laid out on the Zócalo public square. But, for Bernstorff, regardless of the conditions we’re living in, “The project is nonstop, that is, we will continue to grow as we travel from city to city and country to country until we bond as women, work together as women, and make enough noise to make politicians and citizens understand this must stop for the well-being of all humanity.”

When: August 8, 4pm (PDT)
Where: Zoom (RSVP by emailing events@SPARCinLA.org)

More info at SPARC.

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.