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California's fault lines, stitched by hand: One artist's tweaking of a homespun craft

California's fault lines, stitched by hand: One artist's tweaking of a homespun craft
"Earthquake Faults" is part of Jessie Homer French's "Mapestries" exhibition at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)

Dangerous fault lines become something entirely else in the hands of Jessie Homer French, whose show "Mapestries" opens Sunday at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.

French's hand-stitched tapestries are made of fabric, thread, paint and ink. Using maps given to her by a seismologist at USC, French diagrammed California fault lines including the San Andreas, Hollywood, San Gabriel and Santa Monica.

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The 16 works on view contain landmarks and symbols to express the areas through which the fault lines stretch. The Capitol Records building in Hollywood, for example. Or a marijuana leaf and Mt. Shasta in Northern California.

"I use whatever fault lines are in the areas that I want to map, and whatever is there, I try to make as accurate as possible," says French, a La Quinta resident who calls herself a "regional narrative artist." She says she has long created work, often paintings, inspired by the places she has lived.

French was born in New York but lived in Southern California since the early '70s. She moved to Canada in 1996 and then to Oregon in 2005 before heading south again.

Once back in California, French began taking note of all the paintings and books that residents keep above their beds.

"I thought, 'Whoa, maybe that's not such a good idea,'" she says. That's how she started making her Mapestries: art that will do no harm in the next temblor.

"Fault Zones 2010" by Jessie Homer French.
"Fault Zones 2010" by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Fault Zones 2011" by Jessie Homer French.
"Fault Zones 2011" by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Mapestry of Fault Lines 2012," by Jessie Homer French.
"Mapestry of Fault Lines 2012," by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Mapestry of Southern California With the San Andreas Faultm" by Jessie Homer French.
"Mapestry of Southern California With the San Andreas Faultm" by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Taylor Sherrill)
"Mapestry of the Coachella Valley With the Fringe-Toed Lizard," by Jessie Homer French.
"Mapestry of the Coachella Valley With the Fringe-Toed Lizard," by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Mapestry of the Los Angeles River and Earthquake Faults," by Jessie Homer French.
"Mapestry of the Los Angeles River and Earthquake Faults," by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Earthquake Swarm" is part of Jessie Homer French's show "Mapestries" at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.
"Earthquake Swarm" is part of Jessie Homer French's show "Mapestries" at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Neveda," also part of Jessie Homer French's Mapestry series.
"Neveda," also part of Jessie Homer French's Mapestry series. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)
"Portland, Ore.," by Jessie Homer French.
"Portland, Ore.," by Jessie Homer French. (Jessie Homer French / Homer Handli)

The exhibition is funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. It runs through May 15 at the Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. $5 suggested donation. (626) 792-5101 or www.armoryarts.org

Twitter: @jessicagelt

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