An AIDS Panel for a Mother

Lisa Brown:

A mother, A daughter, Another lost one

Recently, I went to the NAMES Project Foundation and picked a panel from the AIDS quilt. I chose panel 1 of block 4994. This panel was made in honor of Lisa Brown by her son, Robert Brown. With this panel, I will use the Prownian Analysis to interpret the panel as material culture. The first step of this analysis is a thick description of the panel, where I describe in as objective language as possible every detail I experience from the panel.

Block: 4994, Panel: 1


The panel’s background is made of a rough, beige canvas material. The material is wrinkled and most likely cheap. The panel is three feet by six feet with the depictions framed portrait (vertically).

Top half

The center of the top half contains a circle divided in four quarters of color, the top color is baby blue, the east color is a forest green, the west is white, and the bottom color is bright cherry red. The material of the circle is different from the base material. It is fuzzier like felt. The white felt has a spot about two inches by one inch that is slightly gray and fraying like someone rubbed it. The quarters are sewn together at an invisible seam (no thread visible), however, there is a bulge where you can see the edge that was folded over to make a sort of hem. The outer rim of the circle was not folded over to create a hem and has a visible thread attaching the circle to the background.  The thread is black, thin, and continuous (the stitches were small and close together).

The spaces above, below, left, and right of the circle depict naturalistic predatory birds. These birds appear to have been painted or printed on a separate piece of fabric that they have now been cut out of and glued to the background material. The birds to the east and west of the circle facing away from the circle in mid-flight pose (wings outstretched). They are about two inches by one inch in size. They are made up of white, black, sandy brown, and light brown. The cuts on the birds are boxy. The southern bird is slightly larger with a landing pose (legs outstretched and wings stretched behind the body). The eyes are slightly darker and larger than the side birds. Its colors are white, sandy brown, black, and dark gray. The biggest bird is the northern (top) bird. It’s about four inches by two inches. The bird appears at the lift-off of flight (wings-outstretched, but legs slightly lower than the rest of its body). It’s made up of white, black, light brown, dark brown, and light gray. Its eye is actually colored and has a pupil, unlike the others. The eye is a yellowish brown. The cuts bordering the bird are more curved than the others. Along the diagonal axis (pointed to by the seams of the circle quarters) are illustrated cloths.

In the corners, there are cloths about one foot by ten inches that have wavy edges. The material is a slightly off-white woven canvas that is less pliable than the background canvas, like a clothing patch. They are sewn into the background fabric with beige, thin thread in a zigzag stitch. On the material is a printed depiction of nature with a color scheme of grayish blues, browns, grays, black, and white. What would be normally green in nature, like leaves or grass, are colored grayish blue in the pictures. Whatever is normally blue, like water or sky, there is no color, just exposed material.

The patch in the top left corner depicts a deer landing from a jump across a river. The body is at an angle- hind legs still in the air while the front legs are planted on the ground. the deer is about six inches by three inches. It is accompanied to the left by two further away deer: one with antlers like the main deer and one without. To the right of the deer is a squirrel midway up a tree. The picture is framed by two clusters of trees, the right clump closer in the frame than the other and appears to have a gray mound behind it. the trees appear to be birch, however, is the distance there are what appear to be evergreens. On the ground, there is a river running through clumps of grass. Right in front of the deer is a sprinkling of small white flowers with yellow centers.

The patch to the top right depicts a mother bear and her two cubs. The two cubs are to the right of the centered mother bear, facing her. One cub stands on its hind legs on the ground while the other is perched at the top of a tree. The trees framing this image look like oaks. The mother bear is a darker brown than the cubs. Behind the scene is the same mountains and evergreens as the previous image.  Below the cubs are the same white flowers with yellow centers as the as before and to the left of the of the mother bear is another gray mound. Below this mound is two clumps of light and sandy brown mushrooms amidst clumps of grass and bushes.


The patch to the bottom left is a depiction of a buffalo. the left of the main buffalo, who stands about six inches by four inches, are four further away buffalo who appear to be grazing with their heads lowered towards the grass. Above the main buffalo, in the sky are two predatory birds. the rightmost bird is an exact copy of the bird south of the center circle and the biggest bird is a copy of the bird north of the circle.  There are dispersed mountains in the back and no trees. Two bushes frame the photo along with two clumps of the white flowers.

The bottom right patch image is of a moose. it is about six inches by four inches. It has a full profile view with the front leg closest to the viewer raised. Above the moose are two flying ducks with green heads. To the right of the moose are three swimming ducks further away.  The moose is standing in shallow water with a cattail plant near its mouth and a log and shore an inch below its feet. There are mountains and evergreen trees in the background and tall grass clumps in the foreground with two clumps of the white flowers.

Bottom half

The bottom half of the panel is decorated with handwritten letters and hand-drawn symbols, most likely done with markers.

 The words “In,” “my,” “Brown,” and “Died 5/17/96” are written in blue ink. The words “memory,” “mom,” and “Lisa” are written in black. The words “of” and “Born 10/25/65” are written in red.

Following this writing is larger writing, each letter about four inches tall. The larger writing reads “I LOVE you mom.” The words are scrawled in blue, curving downwards towards the right like the maker ran out of room.


Below the writing is an array of symbols. At the very bottom in the center is a pair of small blue exclamation points. Right above this is the biggest of these symbols is a black bear footprint about two inches by two inches framed with pairs of what looks like human shoe prints or exclamation points with five toes at the top of each one. The right pair of prints is blue while the others are black. Left of these tracks appears to be a smiley face composed with eyes and a nose made out of exclamation points. To the left of this blue face is a pair of two blue blockier exclamation points. Above and to the right of this face is a pair of blue exclamation points, the same size as the black human footprint, with three small lines emerging from the bottom dots like eyelashes. To the right of the tracks is a pair of tall, but thin exclamation points in blue ink.


Also see:

What is a “thick description”?

Analysis of thick description

Ethos of Lisa Brown’s panel