September 11, 2020

Nineteen years have gone by and we still remember that beautiful September morning, blue skies and all the promise of back to school and autumn ahead. While I may repeat my post from year to year in memory of that day and the lives lost and changed forever, the feelings are fierce.

This year I may be quieter here. Things have changed in the world due to politics and a pandemic. The flow of days and what happens has changed, probably forever. But, we all know where we were; how we heard; what we thought; what happened next, even while trying to swim and keep our heads above water today. We may be frightened by different events as we were by the idea of homeland security and attacks against Americans by other Americans because they looked different or worshiped difference. Things aren’t that different now.

REMEMBER

911, quilt by Mary Beth Frezon, 2001. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong of the Michigan State University Museum

This is what I wrote as an early statement about this quilt:

September 11, 2001
The phone rang. I watched my mother talking and prepared myself to hear that someone had died. Who could have imagined? We didn’t have a TV where we were so we didn’t get the barrage of instant images. All we could do is listen to the phoned reports and wonder.

What stuck me about that day was the change. The sky was crystal blue, the Adirondack water still sparkled with the sun, the mountains still held in the lake on all sides. What had changed was me. I felt that someone had knocked a hole in my body or head. That there was a gap between the me of a few minutes before and the me now. I looked at the others and they seemed to have the same problem putting themselves into this new existence.

I’ve used simple images to portray that turning point where the innocent happiness changed on a moment in time. I’ve left a suggestion that this will continue to evolve. All grief becomes tempered over time but how long before the memory of that moment is softened?

We continue to remember and take the time to memorialize and to remember.

…I grabbed the last Sunday Times
You stole my cab
We waited forever at the bus stop
We sweated in steamy August
We hunched our shoulders against the sleet
We laughed at the movies
We groaned after the election
We sang in church
Tonight I lit a candle for you
All of you

from — “Nine-Eleven” by Charlotte Parsons


Remember.

Recently I realized that people coming into an age to work and to vote were either just born or about to be born in 2001. So we begin layers of people who have no connection, no memory of that day or its events. I realize that small children alive then don’t really remember, in the way that some younger than me at the time don’t remember Kennedy being killed. I don’t always know what to make of everything that brought us to this time, with its blowhard narcissist, but I am still here, trying to do what’s right and making art and words and soon to be marching.

I remember being buoyed up by the responses to the September 11th attacks and also being worried about the sudden homeland security and searches and all “to protect us”. And I remember the rising tide of hatred, surrounded by all those flapping patriotic flags, hatred against those “other” people who hated us enough to want to hurt and terrify us. And here we are today.

Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

#RESIST

This is the quilt I was working on that day as it was in September, 2001. It is still a favorite and still filled with loss.

September 11, 2020

Sunday afternoon in Akaroa NZ

We left Christchurch, fortified with breakfast and a look at the Postcards from Antartica exhibit and started down the road to Akaroa. We stopped at Birdlings Flat after having had views of Lake Ellesmere. Quick stopat Little River (Gateway to Banks Peninsula) for a shop and lunch and at Barry’s Bay Cheese and and we were to Akaroa in no time.

Map showing birdlings flat and Akaroa.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Looks like the drizzling is about stopped. We walked down in the rain to check out shops and maybe get a few groceries, but we found a good place to head tonight for fish and chips so we’ll put off shopping til tomorrow. Also on the agenda for tomorrow – The Giant’s House (The Happiest Garden on Earth)

The Pacific, Birdlings Flat//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Finally, anyone who’s ever been to an event, quilt show or otherwise can attest to this bit of wisdom from the quote box:

There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head. — Thornton Wilder

Friday in New Zealand

Sort of squeaking this one in under the wire but hey, it was a pretty busy day! Got up and figured out a bus to take downtown. The bus ended at a terminal building where you can change buses but I started walking. It was only a few blocks and most of the morning commute was over. Saw some interesting things, new things, old things being fixed, and finally the Art Gallery. Went there because they had Matisse’s Jazz on display.

The lady who stowed my backpack said – oh yes but do see the other exhibits too. I did and it was great. Len Lye: Stopped by Wonder really did make me feel sometimes like a small child gaping up at the stars or a tree or something wonderful.

Upstairs there were wonderful paintings and sketches about landscape and place as well as another exhibit about sunlight.

Then it was off to the Canterbury Museum to hear Guy Fredericks speak about his work and his recent project, Postcards to Antarctica. I went to look at part of the exhibit afterwards and ended up chatting with his mother-in-law. Lovely woman. She sends a message out to the rest of the world: stop being in such a hurry. Slow down and be aware of what your actions do. Choose better.

Time to see some quilts and there were some in the area. How handy is that? There are quilt exhibits spread all over the city because the large convention center isn’t ready yet.

Spent some time afterwards in the Christchurch Botanial Gardens in the bedding area. So beautiful with so many types of flowers: tulips, oriental poppies, lilacs, azaleas, pansies, all sorts of bulbs. Lots and lots of forget-me-nots underneath classic red tulips.

Tonight dinner with other quilters at an excellent italian restaurant. Yummy!

We get to do it all again tomorrow.

IMG_3251//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Long ago, in a tiny galaxy far far away…

Many many years ago, at some quilt-related something or other, this appeared amongst a set of blocks on display.

It wasn’t originally crumpled. I think I did that as a gut reaction when it was brought to me. I may have tossed it over my shoulder at the time. I have never much liked the notion of “the quilt police” and I sure as hell don’t like sneaky little people who leave anonymous mean remarks about someone else’s work. I didn’t much like the willingness of AQS to roll over for a woman who complained about male genitalia on a quilt that contained no such thing.

When I was a quilt show bureaucrat I often said that while I carefully read all comments and suggestions about our show, the rage-filled and non-constructive ones which were anonymous got put on the bottom of the pile. I feel strongly that if you have something to say, you should be willing to put your name on it, if only so someone can follow up with you, get the rest of the story, give you more info etc. Start a dialogue. Maybe sign you up to help improve things.

As I recall we didn’t tell anyone about this little note but I fished it out of the trash and it went home with me. See the little dot at the top of it? That sucker has been pinned to a little bulletin board in my workroom doorway ever since. Geesh, you’re thinking, that’s sort of grim. Why be reminded of stuff like that?

I kept it there – and look at it regularly – as a reminder that people of all walks of life act this way. Quilters aren’t some special lovey-dovey society that is uber sharing and kind and respectful. All the little sub-genres grumble and laugh and point at all the others that don’t follow their interests and “rules”. Quilters are just people, like you find everywhere else, good and bad, and all the rest of it. They fear things they don’t understand. They try to make themselves feel better by putting others down.

This week there’s been chatter on the web about other people in the quilting world, small as it is, using social media to ostracize and bully others who aren’t like them in any number of ways. Secret facebook groups make it easy to get people talking about other people. Remember that old cartoon – on the internet no one knows you’re a dog? Well eventually, if you’re hateful and mean, the truth comes out. Doesn’t matter what circle you’re traveling in, there are mean people who try to control with rules and bullying everywhere.

I don’t like their behavior. Sometimes I spare some pity in their direction, that their whole life is so fear-filled, so control-lacking that they will do anything to anyone else to try to gain an upper hand and a sense of superiority. Sometimes. Other times I can convince myself to ignore them.

These days I don’t think that ignoring bullies is the right thing to do. If you choose to wear an offensive shirt or hat I will try very hard to converse with you as a human and I hope you will do the same. If you are rude to me or someone nearby or generally offensive in your comments I’m going to tell you to stop. Gently at first but firmly. I will not give you the satisfaction of whatever it is you’re trying to do. Hate is wrong but frankly I think you’re mostly full of fear – fear of difference, fear of failure, fear of being outside. Ignorance and fear, the great instigators of hate-behavior. I’m sad your life is full of all that garbage but I’m not stepping in it.

What will you do next time you encounter someone who makes racist or sexist or whatever sort of hurtful, ignorant remarks?

He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies on the creation of what is good. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, trying. I’m trying. And why

If you recall, my motto is Practice, Persistence, Beauty. In that spirit I got myself out of the house, put a coffee and breakfast sandwich in my hand and splattered paint on paper for a short while before work. My goal – don’t be saying a few years from now – wish I’d used my paints…

When you set a timer because you really need to pack up and leave by a particular time, it puts what you’re doing in a different light – will not be finished, will not be perfect, what am I doing, sketch, darks, shadows, lights, what’s in the frame…

I got a little distracted by an oriole and some territorial canadian geese with a handful of goslings and maybe a fox sparrow and could that be some sort of warbler up there but despite it all some paint ended up on the paper and then I went to the other work.

Here, A Place to Stand

Here, A Place to Stand (More Like a Big Ball) 46 x 65 in, 2016

Here, a place to stand.
One last embrace, earth and sky;
light and dark entwine.

Gratitudes that slipped away, almost.

I almost forgot these two things:

  • By chance I met a woman sculptor, an artist and teacher. I always enjoy meeting her. She was telling me about her current show and asked me what I was doing. For some reason, rather than showing her my finished quilt pictures, I told her about Kathy Nida’s quilt that was pulled by AQS. She was appropriately horrified and sorry that this was going on. What a nice moment. Keep on keeping on you people down in Chattanooga! (and AQS, I’m looking at you – not even a polite email acknowledgement? Really? Lame. Majorly lame.)
  • Heard a great horned owl the other night, the looong hoooooot, lacing through the night. Later on I heard the barred owl
  • Thank you Stewarts! I really needed some olives tonight and you really came through for me.
  • To date: 30 of 31 postcards received plus a bunch of bonus cards! Woot – thanks everyone!
  • Glad to get Verge back from its four year tour. Thanks SAQA for a great run.

September 11, Fifteen Years Later

REMEMBER

Photo by Pearl Yee Wong of the Michigan State University Museum

Last year I wrote:

I’ll be spending today quietly, thinking and doing “normal” things. That’s always the contrast isn’t it, what had been normal and this instant where the world becomes something else, something unknown until now. Something perhaps unimaginable but now sitting quite real in the world, alongside us.

This year I think there is more contrast and need for more reflection and I’m glad to be home for the day, trying to do normal things again.

September 10, 2001

In 2001, I’d been up visiting my parents at Brant Lake for a few days. I was considering a big life change and had gone to get away and think about it and to make a decision and plan. I’d brought my quilting – our guild’s challenge for that year, due later in the month. After the meeting I blogged:

This year’s challenge was to make something that involved a ninepatch block. And to tie it somehow to a famous line, bit of poem, title, song verse etc. We had lots of entries this year, from very traditional to not. I won second place in the unfinished category for my amish nine patch. My theme was “Order from Chaos.”

I was making a quilt based on an Amish crib quilt seen in the Esprit collection. I decided to make the nine patches with one inch squares and had them almost done when I got to the lake. Mom and I had fun sewing together and I made a lot of progress. On September 10th, I sewed the central section together and I was quite pleased with the effect.

The next morning we were waiting for our quilting friend Joan and her family to come for a visit when my brother called with the news of what had happened in New York City.

Many years later I took out the quilting I had started and requilted the whole thing, ending up as Summer Seen From September, 2001.

Art and The Eye of the Beholder and Art and Quilts

Early in the summer, Mom and I toodled over to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown to see a fabulous visiting collection of paintings from the Prado. Here’s how it’s billed on their website:

Splendor, Myth, and Vision

“[It] might get you a little hot under the collar.”—New York Times

The New York Times calls Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado “a weighty but also steamy exhibition.”
Read the review here and plan your visit today!
Join us for the public symposium “Whose Nudes? Painting, Collecting, Displaying the Body in Early Modern Europe” on Friday, September 23 from 1–5 pm.


We went through the gallery rooms and were blown away by the huge size of the paintings as well as the realism and wonder at the masterful artists who had created them. Many were paintings of women with cherubs or women with women or women with men or women with god-like figures (generally male). All of these were round and zoftig, lots and lots of soft flesh and nothing held back. Some were male. These were equally eye-candy-ish, showing some fairly idealized and maximized anatomy, strength and power and sexuality abounding. Some were clothed in biblical dress, telling old testament stories. There were some that showed martyrs and other scenes.

We saw all this. We enjoyed all of what we saw. Some attracted our eyes more than others. Mom noted that there were several family groups, parents with children of elementary and middle-school age mainly. Some of the parents were doing a lot of narrating and art history type talking.

What we didn’t see: we didn’t see anyone gawking, or laughing or sniggering over all this expanse of flesh, even while reading the description of how yes, this really was the porn of its time, locked up in private rooms for viewing by the well-to-do. There were no protestors outside fighting against all this flesh, or even protesting from a feminist point of view on the sexualization of the human body.

People had paid their money to see these rarely traveled art treasures from the Prado and they were doing the standard gallery walk or they were actively enjoying it or they were thrilled to bits to have this opportunity. Many went on, I’d guess to go into the Clark’s main galleries where there are beautiful impressionist paintings showing bathing women, and there’s one huge painting involving a satyr and a whole lot of nymphs…

Nymphs and Satyr -  William-Adolphe Bouguereau, French, 1825–1905

All of this is a round about way of saying that the whole pulling of Kathy Nida’s quilt from Quiltweek Grand Rapids recently is still under my skin. Wanna see? OK, not that way. AQS put out some very hard-to-find statement about it and apparently refused to comment elsewhere when asked to discuss it on podcasts (go here for the podcast with Kathy Nida and other info about it all) or their website. SAQA put out a statement saying that they’d worked with AQS and understood that it was a business and as such had to worry about losing money etc etc but good news – they had agreed to show an additional SAQA exhibit of quilts at future shows. Which was a good thing because SAQA is all about getting public awareness of quilts as art.

Yesterday quite a good web article appeared entitled “How AQS Mishandled the Online Fallout After Pulling Kathy Nida’s Quilts by Abby Glassenberg. This was a good overview of what had gone down and an honest look at what happens if you don’t respond to people who reach out to you about a problem. (Note that I sent an email to the two top names at AQS at the beginning of this and didn’t even receive (as I expected to) a ‘Thank you for your kind email. We appreciate your taking the time and will consider what you wrote. Thank you again’ sort of response.

I had given up expecting any sort of response honestly and moved on to wondering what next steps might be good to keep the issue somewhere near the top of things when I opened my facebook and found a link to this, from AQS, offering a new challenge of making eighteen inch blocks of traditional patterns called “Big Girl Blocks, A Big Girl Challenge Just For You.” I doubt this comment will get moderated but hey, at least someone will theoretically look at it. They have lots of “please sign me up!” and “oh, I always wanted to make big blocks!” comments. Maybe they won’t notice mine. Someone earlier had commented: “Big Girl? What is this, 1955?” Whoever you are – love and kisses!

You know, I often comment that I didn’t live through the seventies so that stuff like unfair work/wage/financial stuff and gender bias and sexual discrimination could be allowed to flourish once more, all these years later. But, having realized that these fights never end, it’s up to all of us to keep putting our opinions in the ears of those who need to know them and to put our money and energy into fighting this nonsense.

So, go if you can to see Kathy’s quilts at Spool, get your “Where’s the Penis?” button and wear it proudly on over to Quiltweek Chatanooga. Let’s see how that goes. Maybe you could ask for you money back when all of the quilts aren’t on exhibit as promised by the AQS website?

To be continued. No doubt about it.