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Maxine Farkas
Lowell, Massachusetts

"Through the Lens of Memory: Buckingham Fountain, Chicago"

... There is no way that I can not tell the story of this quilt. It is a quilt about public fountains which are rare in Massachusetts. It is a quilt about the way that the wind and water interact. It is a quilt about the creative process. It is a quilt about dying and loss and last wishes and about trying to hold on to your past.

The idea for this quilt was born in the spring of 1995. My Aunt Bernice called me from the Northwestern Medical Center; she had pancreatic cancer and her doctor would not let her go home unless there was someone there to be with her. Two days later I moved back to Chicago to care for Bernice.

My world became a condo on Marine Drive. My focus, the 70- year-old woman who was my mentor, my cheering section, my connection with my past. For the first time in my life I was responsible for the well being of someone for whom I cared deeply.

When Bernice felt strong enough, we began to go for short walks in the park. One day we drove to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. It was a lovely May day, bright with the promise of spring. We sat for a long time watching the play of water and the people passing. And Bernice said, "How would you depict the spray on a quilt?" And this became our project. Perhaps I should mention that Bernice and I talked about my quilts constantly, she was fascinated by the process of making them. When she came to Boston, she would sit in my studio for hours staring at whatever happened to be on the design wall. She loved to sort my fabric, to put it in order, a task I rarely seem capable of doing.

Bernice supervised the piecing of the body of the fountain. We talked about the design daily until the middle of June when she reentered the hospital. After that we didn't talk much. I brought her home at the end of June. She died, at home, in her sleep, on July 5, 1995, nineteen days short of her 71st birthday.

I came back to Boston in August, with the pieced fountain, a certain knowledge of how the finished quilt should look and not a clue as to how I was going to make it happen ... The quilt was finished in 1996 not quite a year after we sat and watched the water play in the promise of spring.

This quilt is dedicated to the memory of Bernice Ackerman."

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