Michigan Quilt Project
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The African American Collection

Roadkill
Lethonee Jones
1989
Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan
Cotton with polyester filling
44” x 89”
MSUM 1996.109.1
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

Artist statement:
As a part of my job on the social work faculty at Western Michigan University I had to travel over a good portion of western Michigan and northern Indiana to visit the various social work agencies where our students were placed to see how their work was going. Dead animals were a familiar sightalong the roads. I usually just averted my eyes with a tongue click and a sigh. But in the spring of 1988 I had to go down US 131 to the Indiana Turkpike on the waay to South Bend. So many animals were killed that spring that my usual response just wasn't enough. Although there were some largeer older animals, so many were young ones. There were some pets, nice big dogs and some cats. The awful waste of life impressed me and I had to speak out in some way. I thought about how the animals were here first. The roads were laid out for human convenience with no regard fto the sources of food and water that the original residents depended on. I thought of the arrogance of human beings to put their concerns first. The young, the inexperienced, the unwary were all just smashed up by people in their rush from one place to another. Considering the problems my students were seeing, I wondered if this was a metaphor for the rest of us. Then I began to notice other things; the scraps of tire treads, the design suggested by the curves of ther roads and the painted lines, all the roadside signs. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do a quilt on the subject.

Getting started was difficult. Because it was spring, the fabric stores had very limited supplies of fur. So I worked on the tire treads. I had to learn about Seminole piecing. Numerous experiments with this technique resulted in the colorful patterns seen on the quilt, imitating the patterns on tires. I had to make choices about the animals included. I chose to show the smaller wild animals. Their deaths sadden but lack the emotional impact of seeing beloved pets killed. I saw the Disney movie "Bambi" when it was first released and so I could never includea deer on my quilt. I collected patterns and fur as the supplies became available. I came to really appreciate the variety of anumal eyes available and now have quite a collection. After the animals were finished, the quilter in me could not ignore the scraps of fur and leather left over. I sewed them together and if the resulting piece looked like an animal. I added an eye and included it. If the piece didn't resemble an animal I included it also. All of us have seen those nondescript remains.

I also chose to leave off the gory touches that would have made the road kills more realistic. My purposee in this quilt is to make an ecological statement, to ask for respectful concern for our world, to remind all of us of this purpose, although whimsically but to remind the viewer of our fellow creatures, who share the same world.



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