Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do the Right Thing

Tonight I rewatched Do the Right Thing on my laptop. I'd been meaning to do so for a while and as Netflix is removing it from their streaming video list tomorrow I figured I should hop to. I saw it in a theatre when it was first released in 1989. I remember being really affected by it - wanting to discuss it with other people and not really having the words or opportunity to do so. I can't recall where I was living at the time - was I still in Providence or had I returned to Illinois? - but I do recall that the theatre was packed, and that it was the first time I had ever watched a movie in a predominantly Black audience.

24 years later, I live in the neighborhood where it was filmed. In the first screenshot below you can see the sign for my street. Our building is a couple blocks away. It still looks pretty much the same. Not sure where I thought I'd be at age 47 when I saw this film in 1989, but living in this neighborhood would not have even occurred to me.

The film holds up pretty well, even on my computer screen. It's a little long, the pacing is a little weird at times, and some of the editing feels a little herky-jerky, but still, damn! Spike Lee was only like 32 when he made it. I remember feeling devastated at the end the first time I watched it. I think I am now too old to feel devastated by a movie, but I still felt moved by it, and sad, and frustrated by how timely it still feels - by what still hasn't changed in this country.

Monday, December 30, 2013

quilt couture

I've long held a not so mild prejudice against quilted garments. Not the puffy coat/parka sort of thing, but the patchwork appliqued sort of affair, usually made out of muddy calicos and wooden toggle buttons, and invariably stiff, boxy and unflattering.
Something a lot like this.

But I've started to collect examples of fashions that reference quilting, or utilize it in ways that I think are really kind of great. One of the first times I remember noticing what I thought was an interesting use of patchwork in clothing construction was a skirt by Jay McCarroll. 
This isn't the exact skirt I liked, but close enough.

I've found examples that run the gamut from affordable to high end - Louise Hedley is a designer who sells her clothes on etsy whose work is really interesting - and around $100 a dress.

This Cynthia Rowley dress refers to a string quilt pattern in the dye/print pattern:
Cynthia Rowley

This Jean Paul Gaultier skirt borrows from a boro tradition:
Jean Paul Gaultier

A designer that I've just run across recently is Reet Aus, whose work has eco-political roots.
Reet Aus

Another new (to me) designer is Carleen:

It makes me wish that I could sew clothing! But I'm hopeless when it comes to shaping fabric three dimensionally. Alas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A man was shot to death in front of our apartment building late last night. His name was Daquan Wilson. He was 27 years old and on his way home - he was about a block from his building when another man shot him 4 times in the chest.

I heard the bullets. Pop. Pop, pop...pop. Our bedroom is in the back of our apartment. I had in the ear plugs I learned to sleep in years ago when my husband began snoring like a maniac. So I wasn't absolutely immediately sure it was gunfire. But my brain rapidly concluded it could be nothing else so I got out of bed and went to our front windows. There were 2 people with cell phones standing over a person on the sidewalk. It was still very quiet. There had been no shouting (that I heard) preceding the gun shots, and no noise after but for the the man pacing the street, cell phone to his ear, saying, "Oh my god, oh my god."

I woke up S. We briefly debated calling 911 as well, but it was obvious that the people on the street were already doing so. Where are the sirens? I asked S. What's taking so long? After a very long 5 or 6 minutes a stream of about 6 cop cars pulled up, followed by an ambulance. One cop pulled his car onto the sidewalk to illuminate the scene with his headlights. Only the man's legs were visible from our viewpoint as one officer bent down to check for a pulse. There was a lot of activity, cops waving flashlights around on the ground (looking for casings I presumed), talking into phones, the EMT people hauling the stretcher over to the victim. When they hoisted him onto the stretcher without using the back board, I knew he was dead.

About 15 minutes later, someone knocked loudly on our apartment door. It was an officer who wanted to know if we had heard or seen anything prior to the shooting. It was a short interview, the cop apologetic for disturbing us. Our downstairs neighbor peeked his head up the stairs, wondering what was going on - he had slept through the whole thing - it was the cop knocking on the apartment doors that had woken him. It was all so quiet, relatively speaking - just the Pops and then the cop knocking on the door. No sirens, no shouting. There was nothing on the street this morning to indicate that a man had been murdered there in the night.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

harmony and discord

It was the first week of college and our first dorm floor meeting. I can't remember her name, but I can picture her perfectly in my mind's eye. Tall with an athletic build and straight wheat blonde hair that fell in a perfect chin-length bob, even features, slightly severe looking, generally serious and unsmiling. Maybe not unsmiling - does that imply frowning? More a placid neutrality. She was intending to go into the apparel program (and did). She was wearing a print (or plaid, maybe?) skirt and a patterned knit sweater, something with reindeer. Her clothing neither matched nor clashed. She seemed so exotic to me, her ensemble daring and original.

I tried to study her during our meeting without seeming creepy. How did she pull it off? It was 1984 and I had never traveled outside of the country, had only twice made the 4-hour car trip to Chicago from the small city I grew up in. Moline, Illinois in the mid-eighties was a deeply conservative and isolated place. The kids I hung out with required a pretty firm allegiance to all things preppy, and my penchant for wearing mismatched earrings was considered fairly outré. There was not much tolerance for deviation in any form. It was a stifling sort of place.

Anyway. Mixing patterns. I still retain a deep love for smartly mixed patterns that occupy that narrow spot between harmony and discord. I'm not a fashionable person - but I find a lot of inspiration for my quilts in fashion.
Stella Jean

Project Alabama

comme des garcons

Gary Graham

Stella Jean

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I used to have a problem with magazines. I used to have this crazy love for them. I can remember going to visit my friend Marti, we were probably in third grade, and spotting piles of People magazines on her couch and practically salivating at the sight of them. My mom never bought People. I remember wanting nothing more than to just plop myself down on that couch and start browsing, but even at that tender age I’d learned that it was unacceptable to go over to a friend’s house to play Barbies and sprawl out on the floor to flip through a pile of old Cosmopolitans instead.

As a teenager I started saving (hoarding) mags with my first subscription (Seventeen, of course) and just never stopped. By the time I finished grad school in 1994 and prepared to move back to the Midwest from Arizona, I realized that it was just too ridiculous to cart that collection back across the country. But I wasn't ready to just ditch them wholesale, mind you. Impossible! Instead, I carefully x-acto-ed out all the most important pages, 3-hole punched those pages and loaded them into binders. Perfect! Well, sort of. Packing to move from Chicago to Brooklyn in 2009, I started loading the binders into boxes and realized that I had somehow amassed 23 very fat binders. And that each box, containing perhaps 4 binders each, weighed several billion tons. There was no choice. I needed to cull. Funny thing though, even the stuff I had first saved from 1994 still looked good to me. I hadn't tired of or outgrown it. At least my interests/tastes have remained fairly consistent over the years, I guess? Regardless, I managed (somehow, painfully) to winnow my collection down to the 9 binders that now fit neatly on my bookshelves.

Bouwerie Iconic
Anyway, over the past couple years I've stopped buying magazines entirely. I'm not sure what happened, really. They just stopped seeming so alluring. It might be that I finally hit some saturation point, because not even the Bouwerie Iconic could lure me inside, but more likely it's because of the internet. I have pages and pages of flickr images "favorited" (3,727 in fact), long bookmarked lists of blogs that serve as sources of visual inspiration, and just this past year I've been sucked into pinterest in a big way. Makes me wonder if digital hoarding is a thing. I'm totally going to google that.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How red is too red?

So I've got a new quilt up on my wall. Perhaps I was a bit more influenced by that Diana Vreeland bio pic I watched a few weeks back than I initially thought because the starting point for me with this quilt was simply: red. Or, more specifically, could I locate the tipping point for when a lot of red becomes too damn much red. I think I am just skirting the edges of too much right now.
in progress