Several months ago my talented and super organized friend, Susanne Miller Jones, was putting together a call-for-entry. The title of the upcoming show is HERstory: A Celebration of Strong Women. Art quilters were asked to select one of the many ground-breaking women who have accomplished significant forward movement since 1920, the year women were finally allowed to vote. I really didn't think I would enter. Even though my Decision Portrait Series is obviously a collection of 108 portraits, I don't really see portraiture as part of my repertoire. Lots of other ladies were signing up though. Facebook was a flurry of interest. Then, Susanne posted some of the unclaimed names. Among them ... Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis) and Madonna.
What? I would have thought these two would have been snatched up very quickly. I could see black millinery netting, a pink suit, and strings of faux-pearls. I could see a racy corset with tasseled bra cups and a pose so provocative that the jurors would blush. I signed up ... first for Madonna. Then, when Jackie was still looking for a stitcher, I agree to her art quilt as well.
While these art quilts didn't have to conform to the format of a realistic portrait (or even include a portrait ... they could be abstracted or depict items/words/symbols associated with each woman), I always envisioned a face. I culled through hundreds of images in public domain and then severely altered each one.
(Above: Jackie, detail.)
For Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis), I went with iconic images and ideas. I vaguely remember the day when her husband was shot. I was three-and-a-half years old. My mother ran into the street. So did every other housewife on the block. They huddled crying. I cried too ... out of fear. This was unknown territory. That horrible day marks the beginning of my American history lessons. I learned our country had a name, that we had a president, and that he was shot dead. Likely, this is the first time I truly understood what "dead" meant and why we fear it.
When thinking of Jackie, I think of the pink suit she wore that day. I think of the strings of pearl she often wore. I think of the black chiffon veil through which she viewed the streets of Washington, DC on the way to Arlington cemetery. To convey these things, the photo was altered for pinks and the pearls were multiplied for effect. Instead of black chiffon, I used millinery netting. It was very popular then, a fashion statement from 1950s Easter bonnets to Sunday school accessories (despite the fact that I couldn't find a single image in which Jackie wore any of it! LOL!)
Another fashion accessory from this era were white gloves. Jackie wore gloves often but there was no easy way to use a pair on the front, near her face. Thus, I used a pair donated by my cousin Monika on the back ... as my required label. Monika gave me three pairs. One pair is even more elaborate. It has tiny beads all over the surface making free-motion embroidery impossible. I'm still looking for a perfect place to use that pair.
As much as I would have preferred some spread-eagle pose and/or a sexy corset, I knew better than to stitch such a work for this sort of opportunity. I played it straight but probably shouldn't have. Why? Well, signing up for this opportunity was not a guarantee of inclusion in the exhibition or in the forthcoming Schiffer publication. The works were to be juried. Jackie made the cut. Madonna didn't. Perhaps this is because when I flipped the original public domain image, I forgot to move her oddly attractive mole from one side back to the other ... but I doubt it!
(Above: Madonna, detail.)
I have no plans for this piece and no plans to make the one I had in mind. It was simply fun to be part of an on-line group working toward a common goal. I don't mind Madonna's rejection. Rejection happens all the time. The only think I didn't like was the ban on blogging and/or sharing to social media until very recently. These two pieces were done quite a while ago. The arrangement with the publisher forced everyone to "keep a secret" (as if lack of publicity is a bad thing and will result in fewer book sales! LOL!) Thankfully, the ban has been lifted.