Friday, July 03, 2020

Black Lives Matter

(Above:  Black Lives Matter, a series of eight.  22" x 46".  Altered cross stitch profiles with affirmative phrases mounted in 10" wooden embroidery hoops.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm lucky in so many respects but one of the important ways is the fact that people donate various fiber related items to my stash.  Sometimes I know exactly what I'll do with a particular object or piece of fabric.  Sometimes I wonder, "What on earth could I ever do with this?"  When the wonderful and talented Jody Pilon gifted me these eight cross-stitched profiles, something a friend of hers once stitched, I said, "Thank you!" but I thought, "There's no way I'll ever use these."  Yet, I kept them.  Some little voice in the back of my mind added, "One day, Susan ... one day ... you'll be glad you have them.  The right project will come along!"

And so it did!

Horrifying videos of police brutality, recent protests, and especially the number of email messages from businesses and non-profits with racial equity and justice support messages got me thinking and wanting to better educate myself in regards to white privilege and justice for minorities.  I haven't gotten through the entire list, but I've been reading article after article listed on American & Moore's '21-Day Racial Equity Challenge'. (Thank you, Laura Brady, for this link!)

This isn't a new interest.  I've always known I was lucky to live in the "land of opportunity", but as an artist, I've explored the limitations of this myth upon occasion, especially since 2006 when making American Dream, an altered book.  That book had a statement:

As the daughter of an immigrant, I was raise to believe in the American Dream.  Hard work, courage, and determination always paid off in dividends of prosperity, security, and a place of my own.  For me, the American Dream is my wonderful home and family. At least that's how it worked out for me.  Yet, the older I get, the more I've come to know that this widely held belief doesn't always work out so well for others.  Too many women aren't living the American Dream.  Too many are abused, homeless,and struggling despite their best efforts. The pages of this altered book are meant to show the coexistence of the dream and the nightmare. Hopefully, readers will be inspired, like I am, to contribute to charitable causes and help those who are less fortunate.  The one thing I've learned is that achieving prosperity is not quite enough.  One must be willing to share it.  Only then can the American Dream be fully realized.

As a woman, I've always known gender discrimination.  Perhaps that's why Peggy McIntosh's 'White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack' struck a chord with me.  It allowed me to see white privilege in a context compared to feminism, something I already understood.  This article will stay with me for life ... like an article I read years ago called 'The Cowardice of Silence'.  At that time, I learned that living my life "color blind" was not enough.  (I dream of a world where race doesn't matter ... but we don't live there!)  After all, if one isn't part of the solution, one is part of the problem.  Speaking up and speaking out are necessary.  Sending Constant Contact bulk messages supporting Black Lives Matter is easy ... but it isn't enough either.  Action is necessary, and as an artist, my support had to be more than mere words.  It had to be ART.  This is series is my statement.


When I thought about an artistic response, these eight cross stitched profiles came to mind.  Why?  Well ... when receiving them from Jody Pilon, I didn't think I'd use them ... because they were profiles of idealized women ... fancy, elite, privileged.  The lone man looked as if he stepped out of a Rembrandt painting, from a century that didn't question race and gender inequality.  The different colored thread really didn't hide the "whiteness" of these figures.  Thus, they became the perfect place for an updated phrase ... a way to alter past preconceptions with relevant words.  Once I landed on this idea, it only took two days to transform them.

 (Above:  Mounting the altered cross stitches into 10" wooden embroidery hoops.)

The back stitching only took about the same amount of time as the research settling on eight phrases.  Next came the mounting.  Each one was then fitted into a 10" wooden embroidery hoop.  I already had them.  These hoops were the leftovers from a bulk purchase needed for The Feminist To Do List.  I cut mat board circles and glued them to the edge of the inner hoop, stretched each piece over the mat board, and taped down the excess fabric with acid-free tape. 

 (Above:  The back of each piece in the Black Lives Matter Series.)

Another, slightly larger mat board circle was then glued to the back, outer wooden hoop.  A label went on each one.

I am pleased with the work but mostly that my response to recent event is deeper than a bulk email message.  This is a lasting work of art that speaks a truth, allows me to be part of the solution as opposed to being silently complicit with the privilege to which I was born, and able to use a donation to my stash that I thought would never come in handy!

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