Whither the Waterfront?

With sea-level rise already remaking shorelines and cities worldwide, this quilt offers a deliber-ately alarmist vision of what might happen to San Francisco’s iconic downtown. It deconstructs images of real buildings that hug the water’s edge and reconstructs them … in different places, akilter, even partially submerged. Machine embroidery hints at an additional, ever-present threat: seismic upheaval.

The quilt has been juried into Shifting Tides, a seven-region Studio Art Quilt Associates exhibition focusing on the Pacific Ocean ecosystem, its natural diversity, and the human activities that both sustain and threaten ocean life and the places that border it. The show will travel for 2-1/2 years, premiering at Works/San Jose on April 19, 2019 in San Jose, California. It runs through May 5, 2019 and then moves to at least seven other venues, see below.

Quilts in many SAQA shows are now accom-panied by audio commentary from the artists. Visitors at show venues can listen on their phones; viewers of SAQA’s online galleries can hear audio through their computer. Here are my remarks:

I’m the kind of person who’s gotta be outside every day … hiking, biking, walking the dog … the closer to the shore the better. So it’s easy for me to see that the Pacific’s not quite so pacific any more. Tides regularly swamp my shoreline paths … waves splash onto my downtown sidewalks.
A little research into sea-level rise told me I was seeing a trend, not merely an anomaly. Just 16 inches of sea-level rise, and the tollbooths of the Bay Bridge could be flooded. Two feet of sea-level rise, and the runways at the airport start to go under. Three feet, and waves would slosh into San Francisco’s iconic 1898 Ferry Building twice a day—that’s the white, clock tower building in the center of my quilt. Eight feet, and scores of downtown office high-rises, sidewalks, sports arenas, hotels, city streets, tech campuses, underground and surface transportation become vulnerable.  
I hope the dystopian drama of ”Whither the Wayerfront?” will stop people in their tracks for a moment or two  … remind them that the potential for a natural disaster is real … and that change needs to start right now.

Photography by Douglas Sandberg

Works/San Jose
365 South Market St., San Jose, CA 95113
April 19–May 5, 2019
Friday 12–6 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12–4 pm

Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum
South 2nd St., La Conner, WA 98257
June 1–August 24, 2019

Chehalem Cultural Center
415 East Sheridan St., Newberg, OR 97132
March 1–April 24, 2020

Wailoa Center, State Parks
200 Piopio St., Hilo, HI
July 1–July 30, 2020

International Gallery of Contemporary Art
427 D St., Anchorage, AK 99501
August 26–September 30, 2020

Pratt Museum
3779 Bartlett St., Homer, AK 99603
October 1–31, 2020

Visions Art Museum
2825 Dewey Road, San Diego, CA 92106
January 1–April 4, 2021

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950
July 1–September 30, 2021