Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Feminist To Do List

 (Above:  Detail of The Feminist To Do List.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

For several weeks I've been happily stitching on these vintage quilt blocks, but the idea was formed more than a decade ago.  Back then, I thought about stitching phrases on fabric and presenting them in an assortment of embroidery hoops.  I thought about all the typical "housewife" sort of tasks that go largely unnoticed like ... wash the dishes, take out the trash, sweep the porch, iron the shirts, bake bread, can vegetables, check the kid's homework, pick up the dry cleaning, etc. 

 (Above:  The Feminist To Do List.  6' 10" x 6' x10". Vintage Sun Bonnet Sue quilt block, thread, 10" embroidery hoops.)

A decade ago, my intention was to draw attention to the never-ending domestic chores that so often fall to unappreciated women.  There was a problem with this plan (which probably accounts for the fact that I never made the work.)  I don't actually do any of these things!  I'm one of those lucky women who is married to a man who does the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and any other domestic task. 

(Above:  The Feminist To Do List, detail.)

It wasn't always that way, but when I first started making artwork (circa 2003), it evolved into a unique division of tasks. Both Steve and I work at Mouse House, our custom picture framing business.  Zoned commercial and with regular hours of business, Mouse House is the first floor of our downtown historic house.  The rest of my time is spent making art, promoting art, looking for and organizing opportunities, and the rest of the "business of art".  The rest of Steve's time is taking care of the domestic necessities.  It works for us!

 (Above:  The Feminist To Do List, detail.)

So ... making a large, wall mounted installation dedicated to "woman's work" seemed  more than a little insincere for me to make.  I shelved the idea but it kept cropping up in my brain over the years.  I sensed that there was "something" special in transforming a to-do list into a work of art, but I couldn't quite figure out how to make it relevant, personal, thought provoking, and worth stitching.  I couldn't wrap my head around the seed of inspiration. I didn't have the right words or the best list until ....

 (Above:  The two quilt tops.  This is a copy of the image sent by my new friend in Greenville with the offer of adding them to my stash of vintage household linens.)

... a nice lady sent me an email. She had seen my solo show Last Words when it was at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts. She offered me several vintage items made by various relatives, including two single bed quilt tops stitched by an aunt.  Immediately, pieces fell into place.  I'm not sure why or how, but I instantly knew that my patiently awaiting idea for a to-do list was going to be perfect.  My mind's eye could see these pretty Sun Bonnet Sue blocks with stitched feminist phrases.  I couldn't wait to start!  I loved every minute of embroidery!  

(Above:  The Feminist To Do List, detail.)

The image of this installation uses forty-one of the forty-two blocks.  Having forty-two, however, means there are other ways to install the work.  The presentation could be split evenly on two different walls.  Forty-two is a great number, but it was also a challenge to come up with forty-two appropriate phrases.  This work required ten pieces of black mat board, forty-two identical embroidery hoops, and hours with a seam ripper to take apart the two quilt tops. (They were stitched with the smallest stitches ever!)

(Above:  The Feminist To Do List, detail.)

The phrases include: Run for office, Enact legislation, Call the meeting to order, Initiate Change, Break the Glass Ceiling, Resist Patriarchy, Speak Up, Listen Intently, Protest Peacefully, Wear a Pussy Hat, Support Social Change, Inspire Others, Advocate Equality, Be a Role Model, Empower other Women, Support Affirmative Actions, Protect reproductive rights, Dismantle gender injustices, Create an Inclusive Space, Increase Registered Voters, Oppose discrimination, Achieve Civil rights for Every Citizen, Eliminate violence toward women, Delegate Responsibly, Voice Informed Opinions, Make the First Move, Teach by Example, Keep an Open Mind, Make No Excuses, Take Positions of Leadership, Never Give Up, Challenge the Status Quo, Lead with Integrity, Power Lunch, Walk Fearlessly, View All Women as Beautiful, Fight Fairly, Encourage the Next Generation, Exude Confidence, March on Washington DC, Report Sexual Harassment, and Enjoy Life.

(Above:  Embroidery hoops, 10" circles of black mat board, and a glue gun.)

Needing forty-two hoops lead me to creating a wholesale account at Darice.  To make their minimum order, I ended up with a case (72) wooden hoops but for less money than buying fewer at retail would have cost.  I needed eighty-four 10" black mat board circles cut.  It required 10 sheets of mat board.  Thank goodness I'm a picture framer!  One circle was carefully glued to the inner ring.  Then, I stretched each finished block over the mat board.  The black mat board disguises any hint of the black thread carrying over from letter to letter on the reverse of the yellow background fabric.  It also provides a firm backing that will prevent any sagging.  After stretching each block, I attached the outer ring and glued another black circle to the reverse.  The results are that each piece is neatly finished, ready-to-hang, easy to stack without damage, and unlikely to sag.

(Above:  Reverse of a few of the pieces.)

On the reverse, I also created labels and signed each one. 

(Above:  The Feminist To Do List, detail.)

I was able to gain access to the warehouse in which I once had a studio space.  Studios are no longer rented there.  The area remains vacant but has four wonderful skylights that provide rather even, natural sunlight to a big, white wall.

 I'm very pleased with this piece and hope to find occasions to exhibit it.

Right now, the work is in a plastic tub ... in storage ... hoping for an opportunity to be seen!
(Above:  Ancestor Wall, I Made Big Plans.  20" x 14". Altered vintage photograph with pastel highlights.)

As of yesterday, my solo show Anonymous Ancestors is also back in storage.  For the past two months, it was been on view at the Gadsden Museum of Art in Alabama.  (CLICK HERE for images of the exhibit.)  I hope to submit unsolicited proposals for this installation while at Osage Arts Center, an art residency program in Belle, Missouri.  I leave for there on Thursday and will have two months during which to make art, promote art, seek opportunities ... like seeking another show for Anonymous Ancestors and a place to hang The Feminist To Do List. In the meantime, I'm still making an occasional piece for the Wall of Ancestors.  Last week I transformed this vintage photograph with its gorgeous pastel highlights.   If I get another show, it might get a chance to be seen "for real" instead of just here on my blog.  Such is the life of a working artist!


Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

I guess sometimes it takes time for ideas to marinate and fully form. I'm glad this came through for you. Now you didn't need to make the sunbonnet sues and were able to add inspiring words to them. Your framing is so neat and beautiful.

irene macwilliam said...

great theme with some great to dos. How do you actually hang in the gallery, I presume you are allowed to put tacks/nails in the walls

beatriz said...

Es un trabajo explendido, ¡felicidades!