A short book review...

The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Parker

4 (out of 5) stars for the sheer amount of research; unfortunately the images are not very good quality and are black and white. The book really should be titled something like, The Subservient Stitch: the Link Between Embroidery and Women in the U.K. Since the Middle Ages. But obviously that's too long and not catchy or intriguing enough.

It was a fascinating analysis of the changing motifs in embroidery and the role needlework played in reflecting, reinforcing, and serving the shifting ideologies of femininity and sex roles in Britain. Sometimes her analysis seemed oversimplified or conjectured; and the chapters were a bit meandering at times, with misleading chapter titles. For example, one chapter is called 'Femininity as Feeling', but it only had one paragraph related to that idea, while the uniting theme of the chapter was actually the 19th century. All the chapters are basically organized by century and delve into each period's changes in embroidery motifs and shifting societal norms. I noticed a problem with that running throughout the book - she notes it herself at one point:

As ever with embroidery it is important to establish how far the choice of subject matter was determined by the general social, political, and artistic developments of the time and how far women's specific experience and the history of embroidery dictated the needlewomen's choice.

In other words, you can try to analyze this history through a feminist lens, but developments in say, religious ideas (like Protestantism) affected shifts in needlework imagery as much as the fluctuations in ideas about femininity. It's an interrelated, complex puzzle.

Loving the process

The Louisiana Channel has a video series of interviews with artists. One section is called Advice to the Young (which they could also call Advice for Artists). In the segment with Joan Jonas, she says, “Love what you do. Because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to make art.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. It seems obvious in a way, but sometimes I find myself doing things that are tedious and I think, why am I doing this? Especially as I get older and time is more and more precious.

And paired with the other jarringly common-sense gem I heard recently in an interview with Kerry James Marshall at Expo Chicago - “nobody cares about your art” - Jonas' comment becomes even more emphasized. If I don’t enjoy the process in the moment, and I'm the only one who truly cares about my art, then it’s kind of a masochistic pursuit. And on the surface that could seem like a morbidly funny or depressing thing to think about, but for me it's actually liberating. It's another reminder to enjoy the process.

 

Thomas Nozkowski on process

Twenty years ago I had a fantastic studio visit with the artist Thomas Nozkowski. I loved his work then and continued to admire it over the years. Reading this interview with him all these years later, I relate to so much of what he says about process, inspiration, and attitude; I can see how his work really seeped deeply into my brain - even if it’s not overtly apparent when you look at some of my work.

“Why do I want to see that shape, that color in this particular structure? One never knows whether this is delusional or authentic, but so what? Most of our lives we don’t know what’s delusional or authentic. So you try it, and you see if you can fit that into the story and see if it makes sense. Very often I find that it does and that I can let the formal devices pursue the subject as much as it’s anecdotal interior. “ -Thomas Nozkowski

From ARTnews interview on March 21, 2016

 Thomas Nozkowski, “Untitled (9 – 17),” (2012)

Thomas Nozkowski, “Untitled (9 – 17),” (2012)

5.4 Million and Counting Project

Today I sent off my 5,175 hand-stitched hash marks for artist Nguyễn Chi's activist craft project: 5.4 Million and Counting. Her goal is to make physical the number of women whose right to safe and legal abortion is at risk due to the case put before the Supreme Court in March. If it succeeds, it would effectively shut down nearly all abortion care providers in the state and have influence nationally (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt).

In partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Textile Arts Center, "the public is invited to Draw the Line by joining the embroidery process at the stitch-ins, or by sending in their own 10x10” swatches with as many tally marks (卌) as they would like to embroider. All swatches will be patched onto a larger quilt." The quilt-in-progress was displayed at a rally on the day of the oral arguments, but the project is ongoing and a decision from the court is expected in June. 

Read more about the case at Whole Woman's Health.

Art-making paradise

I'm off to Haystack school in Deer Isle, Maine, for a 2-week workshop (Explored Stitch) with Mary Smull. I've never been to Maine and haven't taken that much time off to just make art every day in many years, so I'm feeling incredibly grateful. The internet and cell reception will be limited, so I'm not sure if I'll get to make daily posts on tumblr and instagram like I have been for the past year. I plan to take photos every day and post them at the end of the trip. Aside from all the art-ing, I hope to see some Auks! 

shows

Upcoming Exhibition

It's been very busy around here getting ready for my upcoming show at the UM Hospital opening in June. Concurrently I've been working behind the scenes, helping to get ready for the Cinetopia International Film Festival happening June 4-8 here in Ann Arbor and Detroit. I hope you'll have a chance to stop by one or both! 

SEWN MORPHOLOGY: EMBROIDERED SCULPTURE

Gifts of Art Gallery – Taubman Health Center South Lobby, Floor 1
1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
On display June 16-August 11, 2014

Open daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.