For Sister Donna Brunell, barns are much more than places to house livestock or hay. In Sister’s mind, they’re inherently beautiful, simplistic, and even reminiscent of a time when people farmed, had a strong connection to Earth, and lived simply.
“I think of barns as symbolic of more simple, peaceful times, when farmland was cherished and nurtured for its ability to sustain life,” Sister Donna says. “There was no ‘fast food’ as we know it today.”
In the past few years, Sister Donna, who is a quilter, became interested in barn quilts. Upon learning about barn quilts she quickly became intrigued: barn quilts are an artistic endeavor in which people paint wood on barns to look like quilts. According to craftsy.com:
Barns have long been decorated with different types of folk art. This included quilt blocks once paint was readily available and affordable. People chose certain blocks to reflect particular meanings.
In the early 2000s, barn quilts start showing up again, and these are the ones we are used to seeing today.
Sister Donna has countless images of barn quilts on Pinterest; she openly shares all about the history of them and their causes. However, she harbored one hope that was much more private. She long hoped that the barn at Mariandale would feature a barn quilt.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. The barn was deconstructed this year; it had been on the property of Mariandale since Founder of the New York Daily News Joseph Patterson purchased the estate in the 1930s.
Although hanging a barn quilt on it is no longer an option, Sister Donna didn’t give up hope.
“It was my dream that our barn would feature a barn quilt,” she says. “But, instead, we have a quilt about our barn.”
Sister Donna has long taken inspiration from the barn; now it’s inspired her to create anew. Sister worked for months on a quilt commemorating the barn, complete with photos of the barn and fabric that memorializes its wooden exterior. The quilt now hangs in Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center.
Although the barn is deconstructed, Sister hopes that the quilt can “bring more meaning to more people.” As Sister Donna wrote in an inscription sewn onto the back of the quilt:
“‘The Barn,’ as it became affectionately known by those who saw it as a work of art in itself, has a place embedded in the memory of those who photographed it, sketched it, or simply admired it while walking the grounds. May it rest in pieces!”