Ohio Star: Lazarus Rooftop Garden


72″ x 48″

I made this photoquilt inside the City Center Gallery at the Urban Arts Space in Columbus, Ohio.  In conjunction with my show, Ohio Through the Lens of a Quilt Block, we asked the public for photos to be used in a photoquilt using the hashtag #CCGOhioStar on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I worked with the gallery staff to sift through the hundreds of photos we received to eventually choose this one, which was taken on the roof of the Lazarus Building by Mark Koenig.  The building houses the gallery, which really sealed the deal for us.  Well, that and the fun shapes in the skyline and the gorgeous deep blue of the sky.

To be honest, I’m not sure I would’ve taken this photo myself, at least with the intention of using it in a photoquilt — I typically look for certain shapes and angles and this image was different from anything else I’ve worked with.  But this participatory interaction was the whole point and it made it a really interesting challenge.  There is a certain rhythm in the shapes and patterns which is different from my other Ohio Star Photoquilts.  But, because it is based on the same Ohio Star pattern, some of the same kaleidoscopic shapes emerge across the photoquilt.

Watch the video below to see how this photoquilt came together:

Ohio Star: Ohio State Fair


72″ x 48″

The first time I incorporated imagery from the Ohio State Fair into a photoquilt, I used an image that included people, rides, ticket booths, and more.  But for this photoquilt, I pared things back to just the essentials: one roller coaster track against the clear, blue sky.

The green-yellow-blue palette is not one I’m naturally drawn to, but the swirling, swooping structure really works well in the Ohio Star block.  Colorful metal beams merge and twist into increasingly complex kaleidoscopic shapes that commonly result from the Ohio Star pattern.


Ohio Star: North Market


72″ x 48″

The North Market is a veritable institution in Columbus.  If you have friends or family visiting the city for the first time, you will probably take them here for a scoop of Jeni’s ice cream, some pierogies, a bowl of pho, a maple-bacon doughnut, or any of several other delicacies.

I wasn’t sure about using this image in a photoquilt, but my wife encouraged me to give it a shot and I’m glad that I did.  The image itself has more detail than I usually like to include, but this gives the photoquilt a rich and ornate feel, a bit like hand-woven rug.  This may also be due to the rich golds and reds or the stark patterns created by the beams that hold the market together.


Ohio Star: Idea Foundry


72″ x 48″

For the past 10 years, the Idea Foundry has grown into one of the largest maker spaces in the country.  It’s a really fantastic space which helped to renew interest in the Franklinton neighborhood.  Inside, you can find metal and woodworking tools, 3d printers and laser cutters, and now a large coworking space on the upper level.  I took this photo in the center of the coworking space, which features a large staircase that serves as seating for events and presentations.

I love the way the bright wood in the beams contrasts with both the darker wood in the building and the bright light streaming through the windows.  The angles of the rows of seating, some of which include a pop or red, creates a repeating pattern that evolves across the photoquilt.

Ohio Star: Park of Roses

Ohio Star: Park of Roses Photoquilt

72″ x 48″

This photoquilt was inspired by a show at Wild Goose Creative, called What Is It About This Place? A Neighborhood Art Show Featuring Works by or About Glen Echo, SoHud, and Clintonville, Ohio.  It is part of my series of Ohio Star photoquilts, which incorporate the Ohio Star quilt pattern and feature places around Ohio.  This one began with this picture of the gazebo at the Park of Roses in Clintonville, which is a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.  I took the picture just before sunset, which accounts for both the silhouette of the structure and the color of the sky, which fades from bright blue to yellow to orange.

Ohio Star: Park of Roses - Original Image
Original image for Ohio Star: Park of Roses

As with my other Ohio Star photoquilts, I used a different part of the original photo for each row of blocks in the quilt, which is why the different kaleidoscopic shapes evolve from the top to the bottom.  The geometric latice-work of the top also contrasts with the curling filigree scrolls of the railing, creating unique and interesting shapes when they meet in different parts of the quilt.

Ohio Star: Park of Roses Photoquilt - Close Up
Close up of Ohio Star: Park of Roses

Ohio Star: Park of Roses Photoquilt - Extreme Close Up
Closer close up of Ohio Star: Park of Roses

This photoquilt was on display at Wild Goose Creative for the month of July, 2017.  Even if you’re not able to get there in time for this show, check them out.  They are a great, non-profit community arts organization that is worthy of your support.

Photo of the opening at Wild Goose Creative by Erin Aluise, used with permission.

Handmade Chinese Coins

72″ x 48″

There is a growing “gig economy” though which I can have an Uber driver pick me up, a TaskRabbit organize my closet, and a pay someone a Fiverr to create a customized happy birthday message for my closest friend.  But I can’t help but wonder whether the people doing this work feel like they are being treated fairly by their customers and whether this work pays their bills.  This photoquilt is a result of my wrestling with this question.

For this piece, I hired workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace where workers can be hired to perform Human Intelligence Tasks or “HITs.”  Amazon suggests that workers, or “Turkers,” be paid at a rate of $6 per hour, though many tasks fail to approach this rate.  I hired 95 people and paid them a living wage ($20 per hour in Columbus, Ohio) to take one picture each. The Turkers were asked to take a picture of the front or back of their right or left hand against a plain background with a minimum 600 by 900 pixel resolution and then provide these photos for me to use under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) meaning that the photos belong to the photographer, but I am able to use them commercially.  My goal was to treat my workers fairly and from the feedback I received, I met this goal.

The quilt pattern is a variation of a traditional pattern called Chinese Coins. The strips were created by feeding the copies of the hand photos through a paper shredder and sewing them into stacks of “coins” which effectively blends the block of coins into an anonymous average of all of the hands at once. The photos were sewn together by hand using a sewing machine, which, in itself, is a statement on the meaning of terms like “work” and “handmade.”

Thanks to all of the workers who provided photographs for this work (most of whom chose to remain anonymous): A.F., Adan, byesaw, frogman31680, J Dawson, Jamillah, Jessica, JMG, Joshua Johaneman, kenneth, M. M. Brown, Matt, me, Melty, MemeHandsRubberBands, nirmala, Palani, Ron Tropics, shiv, XIX.

This photoquilt was accepted to the Fine Arts Exhibition at the 2017 Ohio State Fair where it was displayed next to Ohio Star: Columbus Museum of Art.


Ohio State Fair 2017Two of my photoquilts on display at the 2017 Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit.

Self Portrait: Facebook

photoquilt - self portrait - facebook

72″ x 48″

I have a love / hate relationship with Facebook.  I use it almost every day to keep in touch with distant friends and family, to keep up with the news of the day, and to share the various highlights and high points of my day.  I love that I can do this.

But the fact that I only share the highlights (and that you only share your highlights) makes Facebook an interesting lens through which to view each other.  Further, the experience is curated by an algorithm that makes sure I see more of the things that I like to see from the people I like to see them from, which can distort my view of the world.  I hate this distortion.

So who I am, on Facebook at least, is largely formed by my network — the people I have “friended” and what that tells Facebook about me.  This self portrait grew out of the idea of how my network of friends defines my “self”.

detail of single block - self portrait photoquilt

I took the profile photos of the first 144 friends who gave me permission to do so and fed them into a free downloadable program called AndreaMosaic.  The software created a composite photomosaic based on my profile picture, which I also provided.  The resolution was not great, so I added an additional 144 photos that these same friends had previously used as profile pictures.  This provided much better resolution.  I configured the software to use everyone’s profile photo at least once and to not repeat any single image too frequently.  After several iterations, I finally had a composite that I was happy with.

I printed out the photomosaic and counted up how many of each image I needed.  The quilt is 34 squares across and 51 tall, for a total of 1734 squares.  Many of the images were included just once or twice, but others appeared scores of times.  I assembled the images into 4 x 6 prints and ordered the prints that I needed.  I then divided the composite image into 6 x 6 blocks, cut out the images for each block, and sewed them together.  A video of this process is below.

Once I had all of the blocks completed, I laid them all out to make sure I had them all oriented correctly.  Then I sewed the blocks together into the final photoquilt self portrait.

The finished photoquilt is clearly inspired by Chuck Close’s portraits, of which I’ve always been a fan.  And like Close’s work, the experience of this portrait is very different when you are 18 inches away and when you are 18 feet away.  The further away from the work you get, the more your eye merges the collection of images into pixels that form the larger whole.  But up close, each individual is clearly visible.

chris with self portrait

Florida Historical Quarterly

mobile to settler, 1959 to 1978from top to bottom: mobile, herald, ocala, write, land, territorial, ship, john, cotton, fernandina, expedition, settler and from left to right: 1959 to 1978

This piece is still a work in progress, but it’s been in progress for long enough that it’s time to share it.  I’ll continue to update this post until it is completed.

It all started with a conversation I had with David Staley, a futurist history prof who teaches design and thinks about things like digital humanities.  He had worked with colleague Matt Lewis on a dataset they gleaned from the Florida Historical Quarterly, an academic journal.  The set contained the one hundred most frequent keywords across the 86-year history of the journal.  On paper, the dataset looks like a table with the years 1924 through 2009 across the top, keywords like john, tallahassee, and cotton down the side, and numbers creeping into the low teens scattered throughout.  It’s a very rich dataset, but it ain’t much to look at.  So, they 3D printed it.

staley 3D print3D printed data

Once it was printed out, new patterns started to emerge — for example, the decline of the term negro and the increase of the term black to refer to African Americans.  Sure, these patterns were there when the data was encoded in numbers, but the virtual absence of the keyword black — it occurs just three times from 1924-1967 — was more obvious as a physical trough within the dataset.

I started to think how I would interpret the same data through a photoquilt.  I decided to look at the highest ranked photo on a Google image search of every combination of keywords and years.  For example: cotton 1924cotton 1925, … cotton 2008cotton 2009, etc.  To form the quilt, I digitally cropped every image, printed them out onto standard 4″ x 6″ prints, physically cropped them into one-inch squares, and started sewing them together.

IMG_1714ship to settler, 1994-2009; cropped

Viewing the original data through the lens of the Google search algorithm provided me with an interesting dataset of my own.  It is a way to view a visual culture (in the cotton examples above, the meaning shifts from the agricultural product to the annual college football game) but it is also tailored to the time and place that I did the searching.  Anyone else doing identical searches would get different results based on all of the factors considered by Google’s search algorithm.  In fact, some of the search results have changed since I did my first round of searches.  Other photos would not have been included in the search results had I performed the searches earlier in time.

Within the collection of images, several interesting patterns and trends emerged.  For example, John Lennon was the highest ranked john in 1940, his birth year, and he dominates most of the 1960s, along with a couple of John F. Kennedys, before being briefly supplanted by Elton John in the 1970s.  Lennon returns around the time of his death in 1982, however.  This set provides an interesting interpretation of the most popular “John” for each year (according to Google’s algorithm).  Other terms reflect similar cultural transitions: mobile evolves from a city in Alabama to the art of Alexander Calder to the telephone, expedition from polar explorers to a popular SUV.

The term negro is another interesting case.  The first half of the twentieth century provides a lot of what you might expect — lots of Negro League Baseball team photos with occasional caricatures and stereotypical portrayals of African Americans.  But in the later years, the use of negro as the Spanish word for black dominates, mostly in the form of black cars for sale in each model year.  (For example, cars are the top 14 search results I get for negro 2006.  Your results may vary depending on your computer’s settings.)

I found cars to be among the most common search results along with real estate for sale, movie posters, portraits, and maps.  I had assumed that when I searched for one of the many cities that were keywords I would see an image of that city from that year.  But often I would get an image of a house for sale at that address in that city.  For example, fenandina 1957 returns several images of a house on Amelia Oaks Drive.  (Again, your results may vary.)  In fact, I had been lulled into a bit of complacency about searching for these towns when I came upon augustine 1964, which depicts a man dumping acid in a pool in response to a civil rights protest by black and white swimmers in a whites-only pool.  I didn’t know anything about this incident, which made the image even more shocking to me.

IMG_1715ship to settler, 1994-2009; sewn into blocks

When finished the quilt will measure 86″ by 100″, which works out to 7’2″ by 8’4″.  I have encoded the peaks and valleys of the original dataset by fading out the images that represent the combination with fewer keywords.  From a distance, the viewer should be able to make the patterns in the data, but up close the patterns of the individual images will be visible.  So far, I’ve completed blocks for 12 out of the 100 rows of 1″ squares.  Stay tuned for updates as I make more progress.


blanket full

30″ x 48″

Coming up for a name for this photoquilt was actually a bit of a challenge. Originally, I was thinking about something clever like Give Me 300, a nod to the number of high fives in all of the photos. But in the end, I settled on Blanket because the quilt looks so much like a woven blanket from the American Southwest, Mexico, and many other places. In fact, the blanketness was so compelling that I used multicolored cotton thread and added some decorative stitches in addition to those that sew the photos together. So, in a way, Blanket has more quilting than most of my other photoquilts.

The original photo that I used for this photoquilt was taken by my friend Mark Koenig at Ohio State’s Knowlton School of Architecture, a location that has previously been the subject of one of my Ohio Star photoquilts. When I was talking to Mark about making an Ohio Star photoquilt using one of his photos, I chose two images as possible subjects. This is the one I didn’t use. I love the colors and the composition, but in the end I didn’t think the lines would work well in an Ohio Star. After deciding it wouldn’t make a good Ohio Star, I laid the prints out in neat rows, which brought out a repetitive, woven quality. The repetition is similar to several of my other non-Ohio Star photoquilts. But in those quilts, each image varies very slightly (or fully, completely), whereas in Blanket there is simply a single photo and its mirror image.

What started as a stack of rejected prints has become a bridge between my different series of photoquilts and a chance to try new quilterly techniques. The result has a certain comfortableness that wears the name Blanket well.

See more of Mark Koenig’s work on Instagram.

Blanket - original image
Blanket – original image, courtesy of Mark Koenig
Blanket - detail
Blanket – detail

Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory


72″ x 48″


24″ x 24″

I took this picture of the Franklin Park Conservatory on the same day that I took the picture for the COSI and Jesse Owens Memorial photoquilts.  What a gorgeous, sunny day it was to visit a few of my favorite places in Columbus.  The Conservatory was originally a grand Victorian greenhouse built in 1895.  It has since expanded, but the original section is the subject of this photoquilt.  The arching glass dome in the background and the Corinthian column and other architectural details of the main entrance in the foreground are in stark contrast.  The overall effect is a bit like an M. C. Esher drawing being viewed under the Eiffel Tower.

Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory - block
Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory – block
Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory - detail
Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory – detail
Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory - original image
Ohio Star: Franklin Park Conservatory – original image