True Stories: Wallpaper Installation by Cassandra C. Jones

Image courtesy of Shandi Chester

Cassandra C. Jones, a California native, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland this past spring to create a wallpaper installation for the newly built Hotel Revival, a boutique hotel located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon district. Cassandra C. Jones is a remix artist, who collects images in both print and digital form. Organizing these found photographs into collages, videos, and installations, she creates transformative arrangements that reveal the power of photographic imagery in contemporary life.

After initially meeting in 2008, Tracy Proietti, the owner of the Hotel Revival, reached out to Jones expressing her interest in commissioning a wallpaper that could find a connection between Baltimore’s history and contemporary times. Jones began researching the city's rich history, and quickly discovered Baltimore Album Quilts. Originating in the bustling port city of Baltimore in the 1840’s, this unique style of quilting is broken down into “blocks”, each appliquéd with its own design. Containing fraternal, patriotic, religious, and everyday symbols, these blocks are comprised of new fabric. The quilts were created by middle class women to be preserved as family heirlooms.  Much like a scrapbook or photo album, the quilts are rich with stories, and have become an invaluable record of the lives, legacies, and loves of the women who painstakingly wove each quilt.

Noting the similarity of style between Baltimore Album Quilts and her own work, Jones proposed to reinvigorate this tradition, recreating the quilted motifs in her digital photo-collage style. She highlights the likeness of the quilts to her work, connecting the way she remixes imagery “to tell stories in the digital age” with the way in which “generations of women used a similar process to construct narratives using scraps of fabric.” After establishing a direction for her work, Jones was granted artistic license, and set to work, spending nine months conceptualizing, creating, and installing the wallpaper.

While creating the work, Cassandra C. Jones took upon the perspective of a hotel visitor. Carefully considered the location of a hotel for her installation, Jones tells us, “I thought a lot about what it feels like to be in a space that is different from your own but that is made to comfort you, what it is like to explore a new city like Baltimore for the first time and what it feels like to be part of our technology-obsessed, contemporary culture where we can see and experience any place at any time via the internet.” Approaching this work of art from the lens of a newly welcomed stranger, Jones includes imagery of pineapples, a symbol of hospitality and welcome. She also uses images of pink flamingos and cat eye glasses to allude to a famous tourist restaurant in Baltimore called the Cafe Hon which is also as an ode to the local filmmaker, John Waters. Through Jones’ remixed images, True Stories encourages guests of the Hotel Revival to engage in the ongoing history of the city of Baltimore.Through Jones’ remixed images, True Stories encourages guests of the Hotel Revival to become a part of the ongoing history of the city of Baltimore.

Photo courtesy of Shandi Chester

Jones also reveals that in creating True Stories, she sought to tell her own story within the context of Album Quilts. The original “stitchers of sentiment” devoted many quilts to expressing love through symbols, often working collaboratively to present the finished quilts as gifts to loved ones. Every block of these hand sewn quilts was unique, carefully fashioned with new fabric to give to someone cherished. As a result, these quilts were preserved and passed down through families, continuing the legacy of their creators. Jones describes how she sought to emulate this deeply personal medium by including references to her own love life. Upon close inspection of her flower pot motif, one notices a subtle reflection present in the heart-shaped mylar balloons, a reflection that, as Jones disclosed to us, is actually of her and her husband.

The finalized work of art measures 52 by 52 inches. It features nine unique blocks that repeat to make the full wallpaper pattern. Each block created by Jones tells its own authentic story while echoing the past and giving voice to the stories of women now gone. Right at the heart of Baltimore’s cultural center, Jones’ work for the Hotel Revival breathes new life into the historical narrative of the city, animating the past with the pace of contemporary life.