Law Quilt: A response to Edward James' writing on homosexuality
By Robin Bray-Hurren, MFA student
Law Quilt was a response to some of the materials from the Edward James Archive, where Edward James was writing about homosexuality, morality, and the law, including a description of a friends' experience of police entrapment and subsequent court case in LA in the late 1950s.
There were so many potential places to take work in response to these texts, but one line particularly stood out, 'from early childhood I was taught the law would be my protector and not my persecutor'. This gave me a focus, and I started gathering the different laws used at that time in the USA that were used to persecute LGBTQ people. It wasn't just sodomy laws, there were laws against cross-dressing, which were used against people of all genders, written material discussing homosexuality was considered obscene and therefore illegal to send by post, and bars could lose their liquor licences for serving LGBTQ people, and vaguely worded laws against disorderly conduct gave police officers ways to harass LGBTQ people out on the street for no real reason other than their visible existence.
I wanted to make something that could hold my feelings about this part of my community's history in a way that a viewer could approach in their own time, and in a way that evokes empathy. A quilt felt like the right kind of object, it connected with domesticity and North America, and could be something that on the surface appeared entirely comforting. The text printed on the fabric was small, and the patches were carefully worked, hopefully inviting the viewer to come in close and allow enough time for the quilt's emotional undertow to break through the surface.