Gray Matter(s)

21 x 21 x 3
Beaded Mandala

The inspiration for this piece came from the M16 gun magazines that my son’s friend had given to me. When I received them I had no idea what to do with them. I only knew I wanted to honor the dead of the Iraq War where these magazines were used.

I researched these magazines, the bullets that are used in them, the Iraq War and the lives that were lost. Knowing I could not do justice to all the souls lost, I concentrated on Minnesota deaths, Minnesota being my home state. As I sat at my computer doing all this research, tears poured down my cheeks. I have never been a proponent for war and this one especially.

I played with the arrangement of the M16 gun magazines and settled on this pattern. I then decided to print off the information for each Minnesotan who had lost their life in this war. The information included their name, their battalion and the circumstances surrounding their death. Once printed onto cloth they were cut into dog tag shapes and stained/painted, then I beaded around each in red beads.

It took an hour to bead around each one, they are 147. Due to the fact that the gun magazines are gray I kept thinking about gray matters, this lead me to think about a brain – gray matter, which was the next component I worked on. The brain is a beaded crochet rope, formed and sewn into a brain. I then beaded around and over the gun magazines, I wanted it to feel like blood veins, the very symbol of life.

As I sewed the dog tag petals to the background I said each of their names, giving them another voice. The gun magazines were then sewn into the star pattern on top. Extra red beads were sewn spilling out from the center where positioned the brain, the real gray that matter(s).

This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.