Sylvia at Work

People often ask me “How did you do that?” and “How long did it take?” I can’t answer the second question, because I don’t keep track of the hours. It takes as long as it takes. But these pictures might give you a glimpse into the work that lies behind some of my pieces.

Song of Justice

“Song of Justice” was a major work, since it involved initial consultation with Staff of the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, who asked me to do the artwork for their new Bethea Welcome Center.

The centerpiece of this work is the large installation “Song of Justice,” which sought to embody the ethnic diversity of people who come to the Conference Center. I settled on a composition which would utilize fabrics wound around old organ pipes.

My husband, Bill, and I roamed around western North Carolina picking them up from organ repairers and chapels. The first step was to clean them up, as you see me doing here. Then I painted them with a variety of metallic paints. Otherwise, I left them in the condition I found them in.

The second step was to assemble the many pieces of fabric which I had received from people. Some were from missionaries who had lived in far-flung reaches of the globe. Some kinte cloth was from a faculty member at Candler School of Theology, who had received them from a student who was later made King of his tribal region in Ghana.

Fabric hanging over back of couch

The entire work uses fabrics and motifs representing the four dominant ethnic traditions of our own area —Scotch-Irish, Cherokee, Hispanic, and African-American. The three central pipes feature African-American, Native American, and Latino traditions. The beads on the Cherokee pipe were from an elaborate dancing belt that I found in a shop in Cherokee, NC.

Sylvia Everett wrapping fabric around organ pipe

Since I was working on a large scale, I had to constantly imagine the relationships among the pipes as I selected and placed the various fabrics.

When they were finished I had to get a local metal worker to make fasteners to affix them to the walls, which the contractor had made especially strong, since the architect thought that the pipes would be very heavy. In fact, most of them were made of zinc and were relatively light for their size. A few of the smaller ones were made of lead and were from the old Chapel at Duke University.

Organ pipe wrapped in fabric

Finally, facing a deadline, we had to get them up on the walls. Two of the workers. named Mike and Pike, helped me, but I had to get up on the lift to make sure they put them in the exact right places to create the final effect. While the pictures on this site give you a sense of the overall impact, it is, once again, one of those things that you have to see in person.

Mike and Pike installing organ pipes