In 1988, Beverly Naidus created a quilt from canvas scraps, acrylic paint and twine that described her fears for the future and her concerns about the present moment. The original version was displayed on a bed in a gallery and visitors were invited to share their own nightmares and dreams, and place them under the quilt. When they lifted up the quilt, they discovered that there were images of dreams on the opposite side. To see all of the dreams, the visitors needed to ask for help. In other words, we don’t get our collective dreams for the future unless we work in collaboration with each other.
Over the years, The Nightmare Quilt was exhibited in many places. It debuted at California State University, Northridge's gallery in 1989, and was displayed at a variety of galleries and alternative spaces in Southern California, western Massachusetts and at UW Tacoma’s short-lived gallery.
In 2016, the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture invited me to exhibit my work in their downtown gallery, Seattle Presents. It was soon after the 2016 presidential election. That fall I had unveiled the quilt to a new crop of students and they marveled at how relevant the nightmares were to the present moment. Their reactions inspired me to expand the quilt and create a new installation with it.
The original quilt had 54 nightmares and 54 dreams. For the “revival” I created 27 new double-sided panels that spoke to our current fears and hopes. So now there were a total of 81 nightmares and 81 dreams. I went to thrift stores and collected pajamas and nightgowns, dyed them indigo blue and hung them on the walls surrounding the bed installation. Visible to thousands of workers in the city office building daily, the storefront gallery was only open to visitors a few hours per week. Some people did get to see the quilt turned over, but most didn’t. Due to that limitation, I posted a photo of the dream side of the quilt on the window for folks to enjoy. The original two pillow cases were too small to be visible outside the gallery, so I exaggerated their size, fabricating them out of tracing paper and paint so that they could be read from the storefront windows. They said: “Are you comfy, dear?”, “Yes, dear”, “Not really” and “Me neither.” Looking at the nightmares all the time made sense in the denial-culture of the late 1980s, but in more recent years, it’s clear that we need to reimagine and work towards creating something besides the nightmares we are living inside now.