Happy holiday greetings!
2020 sure has been one helluva year, hasn’t it? Between Covid 19 and Donald Trump, it has produced one nightmare after another. Let’s hope that 2021 will be better. It will be difficult for us all to get out of the hole we are in, but I know we can do it! The vaccine is here and Trump is on his way out, two signs of better things to come.
For this year’s greeting, I would like to share with you one bit of good news on my front. Last year (2019), I completed an embroidery called “Votes for Women.” I wrote about it in my December 30, 2019 blog post. I entered the piece in two exhibits: the 1919 Annual Exhibit at the American Needlepoint Guild’s Seminar and the 2020 Woodlawn Needle Arts Exhibit. It received awards at both shows which was a wonderful achievement for me. The American Needlepoint Guild is especially careful about copyright. The inspiration for my piece had derived from a 1915 crepe paper banner from the New York State suffrage campaign. (Women in NY State won the vote in 1917.) The designer did not sign the piece and there is no information about who she might have been. That said, my own embroidery fell under the “adaptation” category for both shows and the American Needlepoint Guild asked for permission from the banner’s designer for use of the original concept. I approached Ashley Hopkins-Benton (Senior Historian and Curator, Social History) and Jennifer Lemak (Chief Curator of History), the authors of Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial (SUNY Press) where I had found a photo of the original banner. Ashley informed me that its origin was unknown and that I could feel free to use it, especially since more than 100 years had passed since it was first designed. Besides, my “Votes for Women” is its own design. (Artists, I have since learned, have no issue “appropriating” other people’s works. Note Andy Warhol’s famous painting of a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can. He did not design the soup can, but no one would question the authenticity of his painting.)
Anyway, in the course of our conversation, Ashley asked if I might consider donating the piece to the New York State Museum which has been developing a fine collection of women’s autobiographical and political work, especially in the fiber arts. I was very honored to be asked. At the same time, I had been thinking about a future home for my other political and autobiographical pieces, most dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Ashley invited me to send them information about that work. I wrote a proposal including photos of over 25 pieces which the museum’s committee decided they would welcome in their collection. In August, Ashley and Jennifer came to my home to pick up part of the collection which had been in storage and to record an oral history about a few of them. The rest of the pieces have been included in a bequest to the museum although any of them can be borrowed if they seem appropriate for an exhibit. I am so pleased to have found a home for these pieces which, for the most part, have been on the walls of my various homes over the years. . . and still are.
For my solstice greeting this year, I am including a link to the announcement the museum made on their website and on social media this month. It includes an image of “My Autobiographical Bag.” Since it was designed and worked in 1974, it does not reflect my years after that. Let me just say that it was learning to embroider and falling in love with the art form that led me to graduate studies in history (particularly women’s and peace history) and a career of 35 years as a historian. For most of those years, I did not stitch, but I returned to it around 2005 and now, in retirement, spend much of my time learning new skills and slowly working on new pieces (such as “Votes for Women”) which combine my two loves—-embroidery and history.
Here is the link to the announcement from the New York State Museum:
And here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, and much better year than the one we’ve just gone through.