• inspiration

Ann Harwell
Wendell, North Carolina
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Hale-Bopp/Fracture Symmetry

The arrival of Hale-Bopp, Carl Sagan's literary works and his death, along with the cult suicide becoming a prevailing media event, seemed to be a great mysterious contradiction. It was necessary for me to make something that would resolve the dichotomy of these events. I began with a search for the tools of inspiration at the Smithsonian. I came away with photos of ancient drawings of comets, but only one small "naked eye" photo of Hale-Bopp. A friend, Brad Rawlings gave me a photo of Hale-Bopp from the internet. Then an editorial piece "patterns in the tapestry" from the Raleigh, NC News & Observer was inspirational. I asked my boys to draw the comet repeatedly. Somehow all of this was not enough, but I was impatient to begin. I sat on our backyard rock (shaped like Pilot Mtn., NC my family's old homeplace) and watched Hale-Bopp through binoculars in a sky chocked full of stars. The comet seemed to be set like a jewel in an immensely full vacuum that was intensely serene.

I squealed out loud when I first saw the Dec 97 "National Geographic" for the first time. On page 94 and page 108 were the missing pieces of my design puzzle. There were the stars shining through the comet's gorgeous tails in perfect fractured symmetry. Then I searched our back issues and found Apr97 and Dec95 issues titled "Orion / Where the Stars Are Born" and "The Hubble Telescope / From Space Time Exposures". I spread out all the issues on my drafting table and began to select fabrics. Stars, planets, clocks, chili peppers, squiggly wormholes, ancient mosaics, pebbles, the backs of beetles, spider's legs, even petals and leaves all seemed appropriate in a sky so full of cosmic material. Kaleidoscopic images of stars created from these materials and pieced together became the substance of this piece. Hale-Bopp / Fractured Symmetry took 336 hrs to design, construct and quilt, and consists of over 1200 precision cut pieces of fabric. The result is satisfying to me. I hope that I have encouraged the progress of anti-entropy-coalescing order from disorder. Thank you so very much National Geographic!

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