Book Review: Threads of Resistance

Threads of Resistance: a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration's actions and policiesThreads of Resistance: a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration’s actions and policies by The Artist Circle Alliance

This is a catalog of works created for the Threads of Resistance exhibit that opened at the NEQM earlier this year. I was first made aware of the show when I saw Sarah Ann Smith’s piece. As you know, Sarah’s piece sent me on a continuation of the resistance/politcal art quilt journey which had laid dormant since 2001. That journey included the purchase of this catalog.

This catalog is filled with recognizable names such as Mel Beach, Judy Coates Perez, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Lyric Montgomery Kinard, Melanie Testa, Kathy York and, of course Sarah Ann Smith. There are many names I don’t recognize and was glad to see their work. The book includes an index (Hooray for indices!) of the names of all of the artists along with their websites at the end (pg.130-131).

The cover acts as the title page as well, at least the librarian in me presumes that is the case. There is a title page verso, but no identifiable title page. This affects you, perhaps because there is nowhere to sign the book if you meet one of the artists.

The introduction (pg.3) starts out discussing the goal of addressing current issues with the words “The Artist Circle presents ‘Threads of Resistance,’ a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration’s action and policies” (pg.3). It continues by briefly discussing quilts used in historical protests. The introduction sums up by offering an invitation to share readers’ viewpoint in an effort to “gain a better understanding of one another’s perspectives….(pg.3).

After the, relatively brief, introduction, the images and descriptions of the quilts start. As with a lot of art, not all of these pieces are easy to look at. The full frontal nudity and f**k off gesture of Neroli Henderson’s Dear Mr. T***p (pg.50-51) is hard for me to look at. Why, after millennia, should a woman’s body still have the power to shock me/our society? For me, it is clearly a learned reaction, especially since I have one of those bodies with similar features and functionality.

As 45 has made sex and womens’ bodies a major part of the presidency, a lot of seemingly sex-related symbols fill this catalog. I mentioned Henderson’s piece, which is probably the most graphic. The assault on a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own body is represented by “My Body My Rules” (pg.14-15) by Sue Bleiweiss. “Not So Safe” by Amy Dame (pg.38-39) evokes coat hangers, an innocent, useful household item, like the safety pin, which holds much meaning that has nothing to do with clothing. “Political Power Grab” by Sara Mika (pg.70-71) displays a uterus and many vaginas, symbols/images that invite comment when (if?) shown in the popular media. “Hands Off” (pg.74-75) is a graphic image representing how many women go about their daily lives in protection mode. The statement that goes with this quilt,”The message I received growing up was that I was less because I was female and that misogynist acts against me were my fault” (pg.75),  is true for many of us even if it was never said explicitly.

The imagery in “Work in Progress” (pg.76-77) is also disturbing to me. The style of the images is hard for me to look at. This is another quilt explicitly showing genitalia. Though it is a difficult piece for me, I celebrate this quilt’s inclusion in the catalog. It forces me to look at things that I wouldn’t normally look at and, thus, explore my discomfort.

Finally, “Roe v. Wade Must Stand” (pg.106-107) makes me equal parts sad and angry. Why are we still discussing this issue? Aren’t there more important issues to discuss? Fundamentally, it has very little to do with politics and should not be decided in the halls of Congress. Women’s issues should be decided by women.

I know my politics are coming out in this review. It is not my intention to alienate anyone, but this catalog offers up a good summary and review of the assault on women’s rights. Whether your politics veer right or left we should all be able to agree that women need to be able to and have the right to decide issues that have to do with her own body without the interference of politicians. I don’t want to live a country where The Handmaid’s Tale is true.

Unlike women’s bodies, which are still, seemingly, taboo, phrases from the past year such as “Nevertheless, She Persisted” (pg.4-5) have made it into our culture and are part of this catalog. This catalog not only documents a phase (I hope it is just a phase) in US history, but evokes past history through the imagery of some of the quilts, such as Dawn Patrol (pg.6-7). Julia M. Arden’s pieces makes me think of a disturbing visit to Dachau, the shadow of which is burned into my memory.

Jessica Levitt’s piece, Equal Means Equal (pg.66-67) reminds me of the constant struggles in which women engage to gain some semblance of equality in pay, gender roles and so many other things.

A lot of issues, education, violence, choice, the right to protest, are represented by quilts in this book. Protest is represented by all of the quilts, but well represented by a couple of individual quilts including “Speak Up, Speak Out” (pg.110-111), Women’s Rally (pg.116-117) and “A Day to Remember (pg.104-105) all show imagery of women peacefully protesting. Most of the images show many, many participants. “Capitol Guns” (pg.80-81) reminds me of the struggle to find the balance between the right to keep and bear arms and the mass shootings such as the most recent terror in Las Vegas not to mention the various president who have been shot.

If you have not seen this show, try to go somewhere and see it. The imagery is hard to look at, but very powerful. The quilt format evokes the softness often attributed to women while the imagery denotes strength, fierceness and hardness. If you can’t make it to an exhibit, buy the catalog. Not only with you be supporting the artists, but you will add something to your library that will inspire you.

Art is meant to challenge the viewer. This art definitely challenges me.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Regardless of your politics or opinions, contract your federal, state and local representatives and make your voice heard.
















*I refuse to include the name of the current President on my blog or in any location associated with me, so I have substituted 45 for the name.

View all my reviews