Laura Petrovich-Cheney Studio

Laura Petrovich-Cheney Studio

About The Artist

Laura Petrovich-Cheney • Marblehead, MA

I collect what has been ignored, discarded, tossed aside, stepped on or washed up. This became imperative after my childhood home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. In the months following the storm, I lost both my parents. More importantly, this experience deepened my concerns for our changing climate. Material has memory. Worn planks, split doors, cracked kitchen cabinets, broken painted dressers are my favorite materials. Their visible history and imperfections are in the chipped colors, weathered shapes, and speckled nail holes. Sawing, chopping, and sanding each piece found wood into smaller geometric pieces, I see the promise of reinvention, a new beginning, and a reconciliation that nothing is perfect, nothing remains the same. Inspiration comes from the many anonymous makers of quilts who even in the most challenging times felt compelled to create a sense of home and place. My work represents endurance, the beauty of hope, and the power of second chances.


Artist website

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

I begin by salvaging wood that has been ignored, tossed aside and forgotten. The wood may have been from home renovations, environmental destruction and whatever is tossed onto the curbs. Painted objects like a little girl's dresser, a kitchen cabinet that held cherished China, or cedar siding are collected and stored. I never paint the wood � the color in the final artwork is as it was found. Like most quilters, I take larger pieces of material and cut them down into smaller geometric pieces. Instead of scissors, I use saws � miter, band, sawz-all, and tables saws � to cut my wood. Instead of pressing fabric smooth and clean, I sand my pieces of wood to prepare them for piecing. Pamela Weeks, curator of the New England Quilt Museum, said that my works are true quilts. They have a backing which is a wood panel. My works have a middle layer which is glue instead of batting. Lastly, they have a patchwork top.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

Working with broken, discarded materials collected after a natural disaster reminds me of how incredibly impactful the forces of nature are and how completely vulnerable we are. The intimate textures of this salvaged wood, with its chipped layers of paint, nail holes and grain, tell a story and suggested another prior life in the faded colors and worn surfaces. Knowing that objects which surround us can offer comfort and identity and become carriers of our stories, I never alter the color or texture. There were no connections to quilts, knitting or other crafts in my childhood upbringing; my mother had many issues and recoiled at the thoughts of domestic labor and handicraft. Inspiration instead came from my childhood stories of the American ideal of a pioneer woman's can-do resilient spirit and instinct for survival. The varied true and make-believe stories of strong women crafting quilts for warmth and comfort with scraps of cloth filled my head.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

Working with discarded materials invites exploration of ideas universal to the human experience: nostalgia, second chances, renewal, memory, and the beauty of imperfection. Color invites hope, creates tangible and intangible connections to our memory. It is so important to know that I never paint the colors that I use � they are as I found them, and they bear the marks of usage. The salvaged wood has uneven heights and surfaces emphasize the distress and wear�mimicking life perfectly. Each piece of wood is different. Yet, when the pieces come together, they demonstrate order, repurpose, and resilience. The ordinary materials of wood siding, kitchen cabinets, even a dresser, become recognizable in their past usage and make accessible the personal themes of loss and transformation, within the context of contemporary craft.