When I drew the tarot card, the 6 of Coins, from my Sakki-Sakki tarot deck, to see what card I'd be working on next, I wasn't thinking about the Inauguration. It was January 10, and the holidays were just over with. I knew I wanted to make a really large piece again, at least as big as Dragon Sushi, the piece I'd made last Summer, about my trip to teach and have a solo show in Girona, Spain. Since then I'd made smaller pieces, restricted in size by maximum size rules for shows I wanted to make works for. And after 3 pieces made "too small" to suit me, I rebelled now and was sure this would be a big, wide stitched painting.
The 6 of Coins, or Potholders in my Kitchen Tarot deck, stands for a situation where someone of power and wealth has great empathy for those in need, and is involved in great charity. They know how to fairly balance the scales of richness and poverty, trying to give equality to those less fortunate. Once I decided that this card could be the Inauguration, I saw the card as a symbol of Liberalism, and after hearing his speech that day, I knew the card was perfect for the event. What a speech! But I am getting ahead of my process story here.
By January 18, I had settled on President Obama and his upcoming second inauguration, to be the subject of this card quilt, and I was busily sketching away and researching the history of US Inaugurations, etc. And early that morning, as I was waking up, I had the name "American Pie" pop into my head, and I knew it would be the title of this work.
My early sketches for this piece show President and Mrs Obama holding a big pie between them, with the Capitol Dome beside them. Pies in my work are symbols of blessings and gifts, and I see Obama's reelection as the best thing for our country, so I wanted to show that big pie of goodness.
Soon I remembered that my piece has to have everything that I want to show up in the future actual tarot card, in its long rectangular card shape - all of the imagery I want on that card must be in the middle of this piece, even though I saw this whole piece as a wide panoramic painting. I liked my early drawings, but I knew the Capitol, sitting off to the side of the President and First Lady, would be cropped out of the future card in my full Kitchen Tarot deck. (I hope the deck will be published sometime after I finish this project, sometime after 2022. I began it in 1998!) So I moved the Capitol Dome to in between the Obamas, and had them standing on it. Then I added MLK Jr beside Michelle (since the Inauguration would be on his holiday.)
Sometime in there, I had a big fat epiphany: that the Capitol Dome IS the American Pie. Check out its shape. Now when I look at that building, I shall think and see PIE! And the figure on top of that dome, whom I did a lot of research on, besides the history of the building itself, that Statue of Freedom is a regular bronze hippie chick! I gave her a peace skillet, where the real one has a sword, and a tambourine, where she really holds a laurel wreath. but the Indian Blanket she's really wearing is what the sculptor actually put on her, along with the stars around her face. OK, I substituted a palm tree for the eagle the artist originally put on her head. I love that Peace Palm! I think Freedom is a much more interesting woman than Liberty, and you KNOW how much I love HER and use her in my artwork, especially as a flower child. :)
By the time I was watching the actual Inaugural, I was adding more people to the sketches. I put the Obama girls and their grandmother beside Barack. I put the Bibles in between the main figures, with the President's right hand raised, to take the oath of office again. And I made MLK's arm swoop around and help Michelle hold up the two Bibles. And I have to admit that I only had one Bible there, when I was drawing the piece with my airbrush and starting to paint it in, also with airbrush. I was doing a lot of online research, and I ran into a photo up close, and there were the two Bibles: Lincoln's used in the first Obama inaugural, and MLK's Traveling Bible. What to do??? I used a paint marker and drew the smaller one on top of the larger one, and when I got to using red in my airbrush, painted in the Lincoln Bible cover with it. Sometimes you gotta ad lib!
Back to when I actually went from the sketches to the airbrush painting: I realized I wanted to put everyone into the drawing that was playing a key role in the Inauguration. I almost ran out of room by the time I remembered to add Myrlie Evers-Williams, who gave the Invocation, and Dr. Jill Biden, the Second Lady, so I had to make them both really small, but they are there. I forgot Sen. Chuck Schumer, but I think he's in the writing at least. Sorry. I thought he did a nice job of hosting, or whatever you call that for a big deal event like that.
My friend who died in January, Jenny Lezak is there, playing her guitar, wearing the outfit she has on in her obituary, and beside her is Richard Blanco, who wrote and read his poem "One Today" at the Inauguration. Later, when I was doing all the airpen writing on my studio table, I decided to include his whole poem, since I'd gotten the whole Inaugural Speech in and there was still plenty of room. So I was just filling in background areas with his poem, copying it off my iPad, and when I got to the part about light putting color into the faces of bronze statues, I realized I was writing EXACTLY next to the bronze face of the Statue of Freedom, the hippie chick I told you about, on top of the Capitol Dome. It gives me goose bumps, when I think of how amazingly synchronized that was! I could NEVER have planned that! It made me feel like I was literally in the right place, at the right time! I want more of that kind of magic in my life!
I put Jimmy and me over on the left edge of the piece, next to Jenny, with our dog Libby, even though we definitely didn't make it to the event. Behind MLK I drew President Bill Clinton, and below him, I put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and VP Joe Biden. Beside them I added Rev Leon, who gave the benediction prayer at the end of the program. Below them I put Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor and Roberts. She swore in Biden and he swore in Obama.
There were five big American flags hung down the front wall of the Capitol that day. The center one was our current flag, with 50 stars. Next to it, on either side of it, were two flags for when Obama's state of residence, Illinois, entered the Union as the 18th state. And on the outside ends are two flags with the 13 stars of the 13 original states. I wanted to put those flags into my round yellow potholders, but I needed 6 of them, not 5. So I made an executive decision :) to add a sixth potholder and put the Earth in it, since President Obama spoke strongly about the need to fight against Climate Change. It was his first time to really make such a strong commitment, and it gave lots of us hope that something will finally get started to seriously push back against environmental and planetary destruction, before it's too late. I put Ohio in my globe, and I drew the Jet Stream above Ohio, with the extreme ups and downs and even a loop in it, like it had when Superstorm Sandy happened.
I need to talk about Michelle Obama's dress! I know she was wearing a street dress and coat, when they had the swearing-in ceremony. But I had made a piece called "First Lady" in 2009, and although it's the whole Obama family, the main character is her, in her lovely white Inaugural gown. So I decided to show her in the second Inaugural gown this time, while holding up those Bibles. My sketches mostly are of her just in a long dress, since we weren't going to get a preview of the dress.
But then it was Inauguration Day, and still no dress on the internet. I had to wait til after she showed up in it at the Ball that night, to see it anywhere online! What excellent security they have! Good to know! And when I was trying to research the Obama daughters' bios, it was very refreshing to find out there is almost nothing online about their private lives. It must be really hard to try to keep their growing up "normal," but it looks like they have a chance to live a fairly peaceful existence. I really hope so.
I was relieved to see that this dress would be easy to draw, since it has that distinct straps setup with them coming together in front on a ring. But when I realized it was bright red, it kinda threw me. Red is so strong, that I knew this big dress on one of the largest figures in my piece was going to set the color scheme. So I settled on red, white, and blue. sort of.
President Obama's speech starts on his face, goes down his suit, over onto her hand, up to her face and down her dress, and the speech still needed more room, so I wrote the last of it under her gown, around her feet, and I think a tad is on the wall of the Capitol Building. Every time I ran out of room on one shape, I'd have to write instructions to guide the reader to where to go to continue the speech again. Same with the poem. But it all worked.
Michelle's red dress inspired me to add more red around the piece, to keep the composition together. So Beyonce and I both have red tops, and Jenny has a pinkish red Capitol Dome shaped skirt. I put two of my Peace Roses, in bright red, around Martin Luther King Jr.
When I was talking with my granddaughter about the Inauguration, Eva mentioned Sasha Obama's yawn. I'd heard about it, hadn't thought anything of it, but decided to go see it on YouTube. I noticed that I could somehow maybe mark the part in Obama's speech, when the yawn happened. And lo and behold! That part of his speech is on his raised right arm, and I had empty space right next to it, in the background, so I was able to put a carrot next to it, and draw a line out to my explanation about Sasha yawning right at that point, and how it was a long speech, and how I nodded a couple of times while watching his speech, myself. So it was only natural! But it's in there, marked. And my yawn comments are in between Obama's right arm and Malia's lavender coat.
I drew Sasha's phone, too, since it kept showing up in all my research of Google images of them at the Inauguration. I thought it was a big smiling face, but eventually found out exactly what it was: an iPhone case made into a two-toned green turtle. The day I looked it up, there was just the company that made it then, but today I see there are a ton of cheaper clones of it, I guess for the millions of kids who want a phone like Sasha's! Stimulate that economy!
I should state the weird names on this piece, though they'll be understood by some already. The POTUS is The President of the United States. The FLOTUS is the First Lady of the United States. I made up the DOTUS: Daughters of the United States. And the MLOTUS is the Mother-in-Law of the United States. OH, and the SLOTUS is the Second Lady ... . Also, in the top center of the piece I wrote "Obama Inauguration 44 x 2," which is because he's the 44th President, and he's being sworn into his second term.
My writing on this piece includes lots of things, besides the speech and the poem. I did lots of research on the history of American Inaugurations, the Capitol Building and Dome, Martin Luther King Jr. and his holiday, and the major players in this day's events. I wrote a lot of it on the piece. I included some of my personal thoughts, diary entries about watching the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild at our friend Carolyn's house on Jan 26; about how it would be our old housemate Floyd's birthday on Jan 27; about how Jenny Lezak had died unexpectedly on Jan 12 and I was putting her here to sing at the Inauguration, as part of an homage to her.
I pondered what the world would be like, if MLK had lived and had become the first black US President. Would he have kept us out of wars? Would we have so much race hate still? What about gun control under him back then? I like to think things would have progressed more than they have by now. I know he would be extremely proud of President Obama!
On Jan 28 I wrote a lot about Senator John Kerry, who's now the new Secretary of State, since Hillary resigned. I wrote about Justice Sotomayor's new memoir about her hard life as a child in Brooklyn and how she became determined at a young age, to somehow succeed.On Jan 30, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly testified before the Senate hearing on gun control. She has to really struggle to speak and get around, and she's lucky to be alive, considering the weapons her would-be assassin used on Jan 8, 2011, when he attacked the "Congress on Your Corner" event Giffords was holding at a Safeway parking lot in Tucson.
Did you know that the current Capitol Dome is the second one, built from 1855–1866. It's made of cast iron, and is 288 feet high, including the almost 20' Statue of Freedom on top of it. It's 96 feet in diameter, and there are sneaky stairways that allow people to go way up inside of its double walls. Its architect was Thomas U. Walter, but he was the fourth architect of the building! I like knowing stuff like that. I wrote about how my granddaughter Eva thought she wasn't going to get accepted into a ballet she auditioned for. Then she had a dream that she got in. Then days later, she found out she's in, and so is her best friend. They're 8 years old. I wrote this about them on Beyonce's red top.
In my writing I told about when the Obama Quilters (50 or so artists of varied races) had a big show in early 2009, at Montgomery College in Silber Spring, part of Washington DC, and about half of us went to the opening reception. It was only my second time in DC, and my first time to visit the big monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall. We walked around the statue of Albert Einstein, which is really cool! You can see the book about our show: President Obama, a Celebration in Art Quilts, and you can order it there, because it's a print-to-order book. That big group of artists, who had only met online before that opening, has gone on to be the Fiber Artists for Hope, and we've made several shows about social justice since our Obama show. We did one on race, one on 9-11, one on gun violence against minority children, and have one coming up about women of social justice. We have a Facebook page, Fiber Artists for Hope.
On Jan 29, a 15 year old girl named Hadiya Pendleton, who had just marched in the Inauguration parade, was shot and killed in Chicago, a mile from the Obamas' Chicago home. Hadiya was planning to go to college and was a really vibrant young girl, killed in the crossfire of gangs who had nothing to do with her life. I wrote about her in this piece, and last night, at the State of the Union Speech (Feb 12), her parents sat beside the First Lady in the Congressional auditorium. I was done writing this piece before then, so I didn't have room to add it, but it just made your heart break, and made you pray that people will stop all this gun violence somehow. (Yesterday was also when the ex-policeman who'd pledged to murder a whole list of former co-workers, was killed after a long manhunt. Too, too much violence, every single week now!)
I wrote about Climate Change. Scientists now think the jet stream is very distorted, due to the shrinking polar ice packs of the planet. On January 29, there were 240 record high temperatures sent in 27 states, with 40 degree drops in temperature that day in many states.
On Jan 31 I added my typical third and fourth eyes to most of the people in the painting. Third eye is for intuitive wisdom and connection to the soul. I made up the fourth eye, on the throat, where I symbolize bringing intuitive knowledge out in our speech and hearing. Sharing our souls with each other. I read that the Inauguration had the theme "Faith in America's Future," and I wrote that on MLK's head.
Did you know why Alice Walker named that book "The Color Purple"? I was reading about her life, and in the book, she had Shug Avery say to Celie, "More than anything else, God loves admiration. I think it pisses God off, if you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it."
So then I sandwiched the painting, after a big heat set, and I made the backing out of mostly purple fabrics. I machine quilted it for several days, and then figured out where to put my Peace Cozy #53, the little light green line-drawn peace symbol square. I put it on Obama's lifted right hand, so he could be pledging Peace for the whole world.
On Feb 1, we were watching "Their Eyes Were Watching God," a movie made in 2005, based on a novel by Zora Neale Hurston, and I wrote about it in the border of the newly quilted "American Pie."
On Feb 4, I got to see my favorite band The David Wax Museum, perform in Canton, Ohio, at the Auricle, thanks to Bill Morgan, a prof at my alma mater, the College of Wooster. It was snowing like crazy all day, but we braved it, I got to make new friends with others who went along, and got to hang out a little with David and Suz and meet Greg, who plays and sings with them. Their new album "Knock Knock, Get Up!" really grew on me that night. I think I like it better than "Everything is Saved" now! We really want to see this band play here in Wooster!
On Feb 8 I was still writing on this gigantic border, and sewing the hand stitching around it every night, while we watched late night TV. Paula Chenevey came back to our yoga class on the 8th, after being gone months for cancer treatment. I wrote about that, because it made me so happy to see her, and it was such a positive statement, that she's back.
Hurray! I wrote about Ireland admitting that its government had been in collusion with the Magdalene Laundries that existed there and in the US, Canada, and the UK for centuries. The last one in Dublin ended in 1996, I think. The movie about this horrific institution was very hard to watch, but a former inmate there told the movie's director that the real situation was much worse than what he'd depicted.
I think the last thing I wrote about on the border was Winter Storm Nemo, because it was pretty scary, and my friend Phaedra lives in Cranston, RI and her power went out because of the storm. I was really worried about her and all the people on the East Coast who haven't recovered much at all from Hurricane Sandy yet. There are still people on Staten Island living in tents!!! Oh, and the very last thing I added was that Michelle Obama want to Chicago, to Hadiya Pendleton's funeral. May we all have better days ahead.
This inauguration really inspired me. I loved how President Obama came out with some very strong goals for achieving some of our liberal dreams for the country and the world. I hope Congress helps him make all his ideas happen. He elaborated on them again last night at his State of the Union speech. I am trying to not worry so much and focus on the beautiful hope in Martin Luther King's dreams and our own, some of which he didn't even realize we'd need to be dreaming, like the one about solving Climate Change. Let's all pull together now!
You can view a big album of me painting this piece, even if you're not on Facebook, and also a second album that has a few more process pix and a few of the piece finished."