Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Political Art

Harriet Powers Quilt using some of the Slave Codes
Harriet Powers African American former slave

There has been so much conversation lately about political art. Certainly the traditions connecting political art and textiles are an easy thing to trace.

Black slaves in the United States used quilts to point their way to the underground railroad and freedom in the North and in Canada. Quilt makers like Harriet Powers used the textile scraps of their masters to tell stories and that tradition is still carried on with the Gee's Bend Quilters.

The women in Nicaragua used their little doll quilts to talk about the oppressions they were experiencing , to record life and death in a revolution, to talk about their pain and to raise money.

The Bayeaux tapestry in France recorded the exploits of the Normans and recorded a political invasion. The weavers recorded their thoughts and gossip in the margins of the tapestry. Some of my family's own history is recorded in that textile record.

There is a huge connection with the woman's movement and political textiles. Every woman I knew took up the needle as a political statement in the early seventies. It held a great connection to the struggles of our grandmothers. Projects like "Woman House" and Judy Chicago's "Birth Project" used textiles to document and honour woman's history.

The enormous social project the "Aid's Quilt" has been used as a memorial, as a teaching tool against homophobia, and as a way to rally for further political action.

Much of this is documented in collection of essays in "The Subversive Stitch" by Rozsika Parker.

Each time I pick up a needle, learn a new stitch and sort through my cloth I am reminded that it is a political act.

1 comment:

Kyra said...

First time visiting your blog - am also a fan of Harriet Powers story quilts!

Best, Kyra