Once in Two Moons
Like most of Laura Rokas’s hand-stitched works, Once in Two Moons was made while she sat in bed, imbuing the work with a tender sense of domestic intimacy. She worked with the heavy batting-stuffed fabric draped over her bent legs, pushing and pulling delicate embroidery floss through the quilt’s nearly 50 individual elements. Despite the strange, and at times menacing imagery, the fact that Once in Two Moons is a quilt—an object that is usually functional or decorative—is inescapable. But this mingling of associations is exactly what makes the work feel so fresh.
The scene’s dominant figure—a faceless woman whose blood red, dagger-like fingernails, polka dot jacket, and jet black hair resemble a sort of avatar of the artist—surveys a chaotic scene that might be described as a “cute apocalypse” (a phrase Rokas says is characteristic of her work in general). Parts of the tableau could be drawn from a spooky underworld. A two-headed ghost, a leathery snake, a voyeur in the clouds, and a cackling mouth with uneven teeth congregate amidst a catastrophic combination of weather conditions: rain, lighting, a ground splitting earthquake, and a fiery volcanic eruption. Others are oddly specific and seemingly nonsensical—a pink flag stuck into an orange traffic cone, or a vehicle engulfed in flames—until you know that Rokas stumbled across the roadside sculpture one day in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, and the cop car belonged to Rokas’s friend and was set on fire while parked on the street in Oakland. And if you look closely, you’ll notice a cell phone peeking out of the woman’s pocket, its calendar reading Friday the 13th—a superstitious day for many, and in particular for Rokas, as she was involved in a terrible accident on that date many years ago. She no longer goes out when that auspicious time rolls around, but perhaps her alternate self in another universe did, and is now bearing witness to the consequences. Regardless of the meaning one reads into it, Once in Two Moons opens a pandora’s box of questions about the choices we make day to day, and how much our understanding of it is influenced by the images we ingest, and the events we encounter.