Monday, October 11, 2021

Sue Goes to the Protest

(Above:  Sue Goes to the Protest.  Nineteen, vintage Sue Bonnet Sun blocks altered with miniature, hand-stitched protest signs.  49" x 100". Individual frames: 16 1/4" x 16 1/4".  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Unbelievably, I came across another set of Sun Bonnet Sue quilt blocks.  The first set became The Feminist To Do List. (2019) The second set became Sue's Environmental To Do List. (2020) When I recently got these nineteen blocks, I wasn't sure I could come up with another modern twist.  I had to think about it for a couple weeks.  More than that, I had to think about another presentation.

(Above:  Sue Goes to the Protest, seen from an angle.)

The earlier works were put into embroidery hoops.  This wasn't possible with this new set.  The figures were positioned very close to both the top and bottom of the muslin squares.  Imposing a circular presentation would severely cramp the design, even cut off parts of the dress. To make matters more complicated, there was an uneven number of blocks.  I really had to think long and hard about this series.

(Above:  Making decisions about the hanging presentation.)

I'm not altogether sure how I landed on the concept of protest signs.  It might have been one of the potential slogans considered for Sue's Environmental To Do List:  I axed the slogan "Save the Whales."  I axed it because the list was made up of active, daily measures ... a real "to do" list ... like "conserve water" and "pick up litter" and "reduce food waste".  Saving whales isn't necessarily a daily activity even though it was one of the global issues during the 1970s when I formed my own opinions on political, social, and environmental issues.  Axed from the second series, "Save the Whales" stayed in my mind. 

(Above and below:  Details from Sue Goes to the Protest.)

When I thought about "Save the Whales", my imagination pictured a protest sign.  The more I thought about it, the more protest signs seemed like a good idea.  Conceptually, Sue Goes to the Protest was born ... but in actuality I had to solve a couple of problems!  There really wasn't enough space for the sign.  The muslin blocks weren't really large enough for embroidery hoops or protest signs.

As a custom picture framer, I solved this problem by using a two-inch wide, off-white linen liner.  Each block was pinned over acid-free foam-centered board ... eliminating two inches of blank material behind the figure and showing as much of the fabric as possible in front of the figure. 

I had a long list of potential slogans.  It was hard to narrow the list to just nineteen.  I wanted to touch on several issues and eras. The signs were made by fusing unbleached muslin to card stock.  The pole was a Starbucks coffee stirrer.  (I didn't swipe them; I asked!)  The hand-stitching and pinning were done while at Guadalupe Mountains National Park during my month long art residency.  French knots were stitched in three of the signs' corners ... directly through the fabric and acid-free foam-centered board.  Only one corner remained detached.


Back at home, each piece was put into its linen liner and frame.  Then, a tiny hole was drilled through the linen liner.  The last French knot attached the sign to the linen liner through this hole. 

My final problem was finding a location for the photography.  I don't have a blank wall large enough for this work.  I did, however, have an idea.  I contacted the University of South Carolina's art department and asked if I could use their empty studio at Stormwater Studios.  The studio has been empty because of the on-going pandemic.  The university can't put a graduate student in the space to create work for a public BFA or MFA show because the space has been closed to the public until very recently. (The artists renting the other studios do have access ... just not "the public".)  I got the key early today, hung the work, took the pictures, filled the holes in the wall, and returned the key.  THANK YOU, USC !

I'm not sure if this series will ever have a chance to hang again.  It will be part of my exhibition proposal for Once and Again: Alterations.  I have a show with this work scheduled for spring 2023 but no idea if the space will accommodate all the work I already have.  As an artist, it is my job to simply "make the work".  Only the future will tell if this series sees the light of day again.  Right now, it is stored in a box in storage.  Nevertheless, it was fun to alter these quilt blocks.  It was fun to think of people carrying these signs at real protests.  It was a great way for me to stitch my opinions ... to "save the whales", etc.


Margaret said...

I know she's protesting, all of her iterations, Sue makes me smile!

Shannon said...

OMG Susan these are fantastic!!!!! I love them all. Only you can prevent forest fires has to be one of my favorites since I'm from Smoky Bear country, but they're all fantastic. I love all Sue's modern incarnations, and I admire the way you worked through the technical challenges on this one- the presentation and message are so fun!

Alex said...

They're fantastic and I love the way you solved the mounting problem.

Norma Schlager said...

These are terrific!

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

agree wholeheartedly with all the comments - and I understand that thought of "what to do with this many artworks" - having discovered this morning after I signed and dated the works created in the last 6 weeks. At the end of each I just laid them on a table - there are currently 28!