Judith Trager: Refugee Series

Judith Trager: Refugee Series

Tonight, where would you go to find safety if you were forced to flee your home? How would displacement and the impossibility of returning home change the course of your life?

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced persons around the globe today. Each one fled their home to escape religious or ethnic persecution, war or other conflicts, or human rights violations. Of these, 25.9 million are refugees, meaning they fled across an international border. More than half of all refugees are children aged 18 and under. Three-quarters of refugees have spent five years or more away from their homes.

In 2016, Judith Trager was following the news of millions fleeing the Syrian civil war. In particular, the images accompanying the news ignited her compassion, resulting in five artworks that capture vignettes of the refugee experience: blocked access to safety, moving into a refugee camp, peril, death, and finally—resettlement. She calls them the Refugee Series.

In a recent interview with the International Quilt Museum, Trager reflected: “The cloth holds us together. We’re vulnerable. We’re careless. We need something to cover us.” Trager used humanity’s shared experience with cloth as a covering and protection to speak compassionately to the experience of refugees who are exposed and at risk.

Artist Bio: Judith Trager

Artist Bio: Judith Trager
Artist Bio: Judith Trager

Judith Trager received a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota, with further study in the Fibers Department at Colorado State University. An early proponent of the art quilt, she is a long-time member and former board member of the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). Trager is a sought-after lecturer, teacher, and mentor to many art quilters. She is the author of "Rooted in Tradition: Art Quilts of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum," and many journal and magazine articles.

Trager has created more than 400 pieces of quilted art. Numerous public, private, and corporate collections own her work, including the International Quilt Museum, the National Quilt Museum, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Kaiser Permanente, and Children’s Hospital in Denver.

About World Refugee Day

About World Refugee Day
About World Refugee Day

“Judith Trager: Refugee Series” is presented by the International Quilt Museum in recognition of World Refugee Day, a project of the UNHCR. The annual event on June 20 brings awareness to the global crisis of displaced persons. The agency states, “We aim to remind the world that everyone, including refugees, can contribute to society and every action counts in the effort to create a more just, inclusive, and equal world.”

Click here for more information about World Refugee Day.

Works in the Exhibition

Works in the Exhibition

Frontier
2016
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado
Machine appliquéd, pieced, and quilted
Gift of Judith Trager Art Quilts and Textiles, IQM 2019.127.0002

In “Frontier,” a group of displaced Syrian women and children can go no farther because of a fence. Judith Trager wrote, “I read a story in the Times that said a group of Syrian women had made it to the Turkish border only to find that it was blocked. That stirred my imagination. I turned to the work of Jacob Lawrence and his Migration Series for guidance. I wanted the characters to be timeless and evocative, faceless but known. I wanted them to relay the immediacy and impact of events that were happening then (and now).”

Refuge
2016
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado
Machine appliquéd, pieced, and quilted
Gift of Judith Trager Art Quilts and Textiles, IQM 2019.127.0001

The Syrian women in “Refuge” have arrived at a refugee camp where the United Nations provides food and services.

Meant to be temporary or transitionary accommodations, today 10.1 million people worldwide have lived for twenty or more years in protracted refugee situations in camps. Children born in camps may grow up knowing no other place as home.

Sacrifice
2016
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado
Machine appliquéd and quilted
Gift of Judith Trager Art Quilts and Textiles, IQM 2019.127.0005

A single image can focus global attention on a crisis, as did the syndicated image of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed ashore in Turkey in September 2015. Syrians seeking refuge in Europe crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Greece. Overcrowded and unsafe vessels shipwrecked and hundreds lost their lives in 2015 alone.

Safety
2016
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado
Machine appliquéd and quilted
Gift of Judith Trager Art Quilts and Textiles, IQM 2019.127.0004

Syrians who safely arrived in Greece by sea found that the nation was not prepared to receive wave after wave of refugees. Access to basic needs for toilets, hygiene products, and bathing was limited. According to the UNHCR the vast majority of these refugees, many of whom were university educated, intended to seek asylum in Germany or Sweden.

Relocation
2016
Judith Trager
Boulder, Colorado
Machine appliquéd, pieced, and quilted
Gift of Judith Trager Art Quilts and Textiles, IQM 2019.127.0003

The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, displaced more than 6.7 million refugees by 2018. Another 6.1 million displaced persons remained inside Syria. Eventually, many Syrian refugees receive asylum, find jobs, and begin new lives in foreign countries. Relatives may settle in different countries and families may not be able to be reunited.

Works in the Exhibition
Support for this exhibition has been provided by the following sponsors, and by contributions from visitors like you. Additional support provided by the Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment and the Friends of the International Quilt Museum. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov for more information.
Event Date
Friday, June 19, 2020 to Sunday, June 21, 2020