Material Memory

Material Memory

Material Memory

February/March 2020 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Alia Jeraj
Mediums Wood
Laura Petrovich-Cheney Entanglement

Laura Petrovich-Cheney, Entanglement, 2019, salvaged wood collected after natural disasters, 4 x 4 ft.

Jerry Russo

Laura Petrovich-Cheney was living in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. Her house sustained significant damage, while many other homes, including her parents’, were destroyed.

At the time, the artist was already creating her signature wood quilts, which combine her love of woodworking with her background in sewing and clothing design. But they took on new meaning following the hurricane. Surrounded by debris, Petrovich-Cheney began fashioning quilts from scraps of homes destroyed in the storm. She traveled through affected neighborhoods, speaking with community members as she gathered materials. “Collecting the wood became a way of comforting [storm victims] and making order out of chaos,” Petrovich-Cheney says.

Superstorms such as Sandy are becoming more frequent. The quilts call attention to the storms’ aftermath, with more people losing homes and having to rebuild.

Entanglement is modeled after double wedding ring quilts, enduring symbols of interconnection. The piece merges the disciplines of woodworking and quilting. It also carries over the past lives of its materials into their new iteration as art. By not retouching the scraps’ surfaces – “The colors are as I found them: the pink dresser, orange kitchen cabinets, avocado-green drawers, red door trim” – the artist aims to share stories of the homes they came from. “Things have memory,” she says.