Bulldog Landmines

Hi Folks,

I have a piece in an exhibit!

Bulldog Landmines by Annie Webster |Webster Fiber Arts

The exhibit is called “12x12xMoFA.” I’m a member of Missouri Fiber Arts (MoFA), a group of fiber artists across the state of Missouri (and a few folks beyond the state borders). We were challenged to create a piece on a 12 inch by 12 inch canvas for this exhibit—that was the only guideline.

Here’s a quick Facebook video of all of the works. There are about 40 pieces in the exhibit.


Lots of cool stuff there! The exhibit is sponsored by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. If you happen to be in Cape Girardeau, you can see the exhibit from now through November 26.

So, my piece. I’ve been putting off writing about it for a couple of weeks now because of being busy being sick fear, but fear means it needs to be done. This post is long, and might be triggering for folks with a history of abuse. Here goes…

This piece is called “Bulldog Landmines” and it is easily the most personal piece I have made. I created it around the time my mom was recovering from her knee replacement surgery and I was spending a lot of time in Rolla, Mo, my hometown.

When I was in high school in Rolla, I was molested by my band director. The abuse went on for about a year, and then I sat on the secret until I graduated. I told my parents and eventually everything came out into the open. He hurt other girls, too. Rolla is a small town and everything played out in the local newspaper. I was away at college while the community was finding out, yet I still remember seeing a lot of letters to the editor calling us girls pretty horrible things and extolling the virtues of the church-attending, family man teacher. Those words still hurt. I really can’t distinguish the pain of the abuse from the pain of the after abuse (everyone finding out, the depositions, days in court, etc.) anymore—it is all just one big blob of gross.

That blob of gross affected me deeply for many years—like, I would think about it every day kind of affecting. My abuser did go to jail, but that didn’t really address what was going on inside my head. Eventually, I found a wonderful team of counselors who have helped me more than I can even really tell you. And they are still helping me today. I had talked to counselors before, but sometimes it takes some hunting to find the right people. My right people are helping me with my feelings about the abuse, with my binge eating, with my general “not good enough” feelings, and they are awesome.

I was already working with my team when my mom had her first knee replaced a couple years ago. I stayed at my mom’s place and would go visit her at the hospital while she was recovering. It is a straight shot down 10th Street from my mom’s place to the hospital, but that route also involves driving past the high school. That’s where all of the abuse happened. It was not good for me. I had been home to Rolla a million times in the years between high school and that knee replacement—I had even been in the school a few times—but this was just terrible. I felt crappy about myself, and then felt crappy that I was feeling crappy when I was supposed to be caring for my mom. It cycled. I ate. I came back to Kansas City and did more work on me.

This summer, when it was time for knee replacement number two (the other knee), I was better prepared. I didn’t take the straight shot route to the hospital each day. I took a non-direct route that kept me free of the high school. I knew there was a landmine there, and I wanted to avoid it. Once, my route took me past the junior high school, where I saw a Rolla High School Band van parked. That was unexpected, and triggering, because, yes, I had been in a van with my abuser before. I scratched that route off the list, and turned to my crochet for some comfort. It was then that I started thinking about making this piece.

When mom was home and I was back in Kansas City, I started dyeing yarn. Rolla High’s mascot is a bulldog, and the colors for the school are maroon and gray, though I remember there being some gold accents that don’t seem to be around much anymore. I created a twelve inch square crocheted background for my base in gray, and then added some gold stitches in a very vague map of the streets I used in Rolla. It is not at all to scale and I used quite a bit of artistic license to get things to fit. Then I added my landmines: The high school. The junior high with the van. And because my emotions were a raw, the hospital where my mom was in pain and I didn’t know what to expect from one day to the next, and her apartment, when I could sit and stew about things.

I painted my 12 x 12 canvas gray (with a super cheap paintbrush that left little hairs everywhere, which, really, seems appropriate, as this whole thing is just kind of messy), and attached my piece with a few stitches through the canvas.

So there you have it. Bulldog Landmines. Revelations. Art. Me.

Until next time,

UPDATE: I wrote this blog post on Thursday, and then Mike and I decided we should try to go to the exhibit over the weekend, so I held back on posting so I could tell you about seeing it. This is my first exhibit outside of one for school. We drove to Cape Girardeau Friday night. It is a pretty good haul from Kansas City. Saturday, we headed to downtown and…the gallery wasn’t open. Womp womp. It was supposed to be open from 10-4, and we arrived well after ten. We walked around downtown some more, looked at the murals on the flood wall, watched the Mississippi flow by for a while, and headed back to the gallery. Still not open. Mike called and left a message to find out if they would be open on Saturday and got no call back. “Artists,” he scoffed, which made me laugh.

We heard an ad on the radio for an art show in Cape that day, so I would assume most of the folks associated with the gallery were there. So, yeah. It wasn’t so funny on the long drive back on Saturday, but by yesterday when we were telling people about it, we had mellowed. I’m smiling and shaking my head as I write this now.

We did visit Bollinger Mill State Historic Site while we were there, and that was cool. I have another hiking stick medallion to add to my stick, so it was not a completely unsuccessful trip.

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