Sarah FitzSimons

Pacific Quilt, Part 1: Bering Strait - Tropic of Cancer (installation view), 2013. Cotton fabrics, thread, and batting. Approx. 6 ½ x 18 feet. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Aaron Granat.

Madison, WI


Sarah FitzSimons conveys her ongoing interest in oceanography and coastal geomorphology through her studio practice. In her art, she forges conceptual links between natural phenomena and the psychological—equating the imposing presence of oceans, mountains, deserts, and other land forms with the emotional power of the human psyche.

FitzSimons’s massively-scaled quilt is the first phase of a set of four textiles that, when pieced together into a single work, will form a stitched representation of the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Quilt, Part 1: Bering Strait - Tropic of Cancer embodies the Bering Strait to the Tropic of Cancer, and is based on the artist’s extensive research into the Pacific Ocean’s actual surface topography: varying shades of blue fabric indicate levels of underwater depth, and surface stitching correspond to oceanic current patterns. Designed as a functional, though oversized, bed covering, Pacific Quilt blankets a bed like the ocean blankets much of the Earth. In this way, FitzSimons probes connections between the individual and the wider patterns of nature by metaphorically linking the sleep-wake cycle of the human day with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Pacific Quilt serves as a companion piece to the artist’s earlier project from 2005 titled Tide Bed, for which she built a wooden bed and anchored it on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Fitzsimons conceived of this bed as a temporary public sculpture to mark the changing water levels; conceptually, however, it again highlights the connections between the rhythms of internal and external, indoor and outdoor, and human and nature.

A note from the artist:
Special thanks to all the wonderful assistants who helped out over the summer - April Bergstrom, Maggie Willsey, Rebecca Lessem, Paul Lorenz, Sylvie Rosenthal, Dominique Haller, and Jeannine Shinoda, and to generous financial support from the Efroymson Family Fund.


Sarah FitzSimons is an Assistant Professor of sculpture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She took her MFA in Sculpture in 2005 at the University of California, Los Angeles. FitzSimons combines sculpture, photography, and video to create pieces that range from temporary interventions to permanently placed work. She has exhibited internationally and in cities across the United States: recent exhibitions and commissioned works include International Forest Art Path (Darmstadt, Germany); Ponto e Coordinada (Monsaraz, Portugal); The Hairy Blob (Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago IL); Compendium (Chazen Museum of Art, Madison WI); Any Questions? (Vadehavsfestival, Mando Denmark); Between Document and Fiction (Porto, Portugal); and Internal Compasses (Spaces Gallery, Cleveland OH). FitzSimons has been awarded residencies and grants from the MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, I-Park, and the Ohio Arts Council.