Let’s Sing for Harmony

out_of_many_one
If you like to sing please come and join us March 27th at Charlotte’s Place to sing a new version of our National Anthem.
This anthem is not about “bombs bursting in air” but about “people free with their prayer”. It’s time to shift the consciousness from war to harmony among all of us.
Take time to learn the new words of the song before March 27th.
Oh, say can you see by this day’s brilliant light
How so joyf’lly we’ve made out of many, one dreaming?
Take broad stripes and bright stars and a unified sight
O’er the country we watch all our new neighbors beaming.
And the freedom that’s here, people free with their prayer,
Give proof every year that E Pluribus we share.
Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and diverse home we’ve made.
Join us March 27th from 10:00AM to 12 Noon at Charlotte’s Place, 109 Greenwich Street above Rector Street. Please RSVP info@epluribus.us

Greek/Danish/Venez Commission

Here is a new flag that was a great honor to make. I was asked to create a wedding present for a friend to give and after a bit of back and forth discussion this is the design that we agreed upon. I wanted to make something modern and bright that honored the heritage of the couple which is Greek, Danish and Venezuelan.
It is made with Italian sycamore wood veneer that is made to bend then cut by computer laser, painted by me and finally constructed by a master carpenter. The detail of the laser cutting is so amazing and inspiring to me.
Expect to see more flags with laser cuts.
for-blog

Below is the custom packaging that I made for the flag too:

box

gdv_bag

Out of Many, One

out_of_many_one

The flag is done now and well ensconced in Charlotte’s Place. The response has been terrific.

For me the experience was so fulfilling. I have been working on this project since 2003 and working mostly by myself. While I try very hard to conceive of ways in which to honor, respect and celebrate the various cultures represented in the flags the missing link has been community. I have throughout the years spoken to the occasional individual to hone my plans for a specific flag. My friends have helped me a lot donating ideas drinking lots of wine to donate corks and even donating fabrics to make into flags, but until now I have not experienced a real connection to the wider diverse community of New York.

It’s true that I do have a fabulously diverse community in my immediate friends and family but what a delight it has been to meet so many new people from all over the world at Charlotte’s Place. So many tourists, local workers, students, and residents came in during the project and traced their hands or stuck around to do some drawing, cutting and sticking on of hands. I gave many tours of my flag exhibit and answered the same collection of questions; why the flags, when did I start and how did I come up with the idea. Quite a few people were disappointed that their culture or country was not represented yet: some Australian ladies, two Spanish girls and a Dominican Republic contingent all had great ideas for more flags to be included in the collection. So I have my work cut out for me, or I should say not cut out yet but waiting to be cut out.

I feel as if the project has taken a great leap forward. It is a delightful ride and it is so very gratifying and such a deep honor to be working on something that is so appreciated and that creates it’s own momentum.
Recently I showed up to do a bit of stitching; now that the flag is all together we have concluded that we’d like to stitch the hands to make sure they stay on. If you want to help please let me know. Anyway, I was doing that and a writer showed up; suddenly I was doing an interview for Suite 101 with Jean Terepka. She has very eloquently summarized the project and my work and I invite you to check out the article at Suite 101.

It is good that we finished when we did because shortly afterward the Occupy Wall Street folks arrived and discovered Charlotte’s Place so the space is now very busy with groups earnestly discussing how to create a better future for us all. So come down and check out the work and get involved in the democratic conversation.

Out of Many, One – First Layer Blu

blu_cropFirst layer blu, here we go! On Thursdays August 4th and 18th, 2:00 to 8:00PM please join us at Charlotte’s Place-109 Greenwich Street (between Rector and Carlisle) to work on the Out of Many, One flag. You can bring your cloth, trace your hands, cut out hands, and help construct the flag. FUN,FUN,FUN. I hope to see you there, then.

GENDER

maliI am delighted to participate this month in a new show entitled Continuum: Gender Identities at The Ridgefield Guild of Artists. The Guild is excited to announce that it will be mounting a national exhibition entitled Continuum: Gender Identities, opening April 30, 2011, through June 3. This exhibition, curated by artist Nancy Moore, parent of a transgender son, will be a powerful exploration of how artists choose to depict gender in their work: from traditional images of masculine and feminine, to work that bends or questions the role of female and male.

I am entering one flag from my E Pluribus series of US flags that celebrate diversity. As an immigrant from England I am particularly moved by the ways so many diverse people thrive together in harmony. I’ve submitted this piece because of its focus on the celebration of marriage. Representing the Mali people, this flag is made from very long thin strips of hand-loomed fabric typically made into blankets for a Fulani wedding. These blankets, up to 15 feet long, may be hung on a wall, over the bed, or as a room partition. They may also function as a mosquito net. The beads are made in the Czech Republic and originally were used as trade beads but soon became part of the Fulani wedding tradition, probably because of their colorful and festive appearance. My artistic mission is to use the symbol of the US flag to celebrate the cultural diversity and freedom of expression of the people in the United States and to emphasize the concept of our beautifully conceived US motto: E Pluribus, Unum (Out of Many, One). In the context of this exhibit, I am delighted to express a further subtlety of our E Pluribus, Unum motto highlighted by this flag: the idea that two genders become one within the form of marriage.

I hope to see you there at the opening celebration on Saturday, April 30th from 6- 9PM.
Ridgefield Artists Guild is located at: 34 Halpin Lane, Ridgefield CT 06877

TellebrAsian

This weekend I was so delighted to participate in a fabulous event at the Wang Center hosted by Sunita Mukhi the gracious director of Asian/American programs at the center. I am so grateful to Sunita for being welcomed into the beautiful space of the Wang Center as well as being welcomed into the inspiring community of the Wang Center. Here is a lovely place and community that exemplifies to me what my E Pluribus project is about: sharing our celebration of diversity.
On Saturday the treat was called TellebrAsian, it was a uniquely tailored yearly story telling event that this year was inspired by the flags. A talented group of story tellers, some professional and some students, chose a flag and launched into either a personal or a cultural story. The setting was intimate in the Wang Center Interdenominational Chapel with Oriental rugs comfortably welcoming kids and families to lounge as if they were on their own living room floor. The less flexible audience sat in comfort around the edges of the elegant room in chairs.
Nine delightful stories were told beginning with a half dance autobiographical story about the weight of making life decisions regarding career and boyfriend. Following were stories of a magical fish and a greedy wife, an inebriated Irishman mistaking thieves for the devil, a personal recollection of crabbing, why the sun follows the moon, ten ancient Chinese super-powered brothers, a covetous crane from the Mahabharata, the entire epic of Gilgamesh in ten minutes and finally a delightful story of a sparrow which was punctuated and enhanced by a Japanese percussion troop.
The broad range of subjects from Ancient texts to personal recollections was a rich and fascinating field of discovery for the audience. Skilled story tellers led the audience with experience and the inexperienced story tellers held us with their enthusiasm and so the entertainment never dipped in capturing our attention. The audience was entranced and often moved to laughter. Most delightful were two Chinese students, Erica Xie and Stella Yu telling their story of the ten brothers and minimally but very effectively acting out their super powers. Stories were also told by Robin Bady, Lorena Doherty, Shrikant Iyer, Pamela MacFarlane, Eva Nagase, Jorge Portillo, Kadhambari Sridhar and featured guest artist Dr. Donny George Youkhanna who is an Iraqi Assyrian archeologist, anthropologist, author, curator and scholar now visiting professor at SUNY Stony Brook and internationally known as “the man who saved the Iraq National Museum”. It was a thoroughly delightful afternoon wittily MC’d by Francesca Calarco and followed by a delicious meal of Asian cuisine from the Wang Center restaurant; Jasmine.
This kind of event is the growing vision for E Pluribus; that it may promote further conversations about harmony in diversity and further celebrations of our diversity. By sharing these stories of life, love, dreams, hopes, aspirations and terrible mistakes we can really connect with each other in profound ways and recognize each other respectfully. Whether same or different our hearts resonate with similar feelings and to see another is to see deeply within ourself to our core humanity.
I would like to also thank Jennifer Iacona for her over the top support and generous coordination efforts on behalf of E Pluribus and this event. I thank Sophia Dang, Manami Hotta, Luke Diorio and Allison Conley for their very careful and exacting assistance in hanging the artwork. I am also grateful to Graduate Assistants; Dan Woulfin and Sarah Feltham as well as Senior Student Assistant; Sumreen Dar, Student Assistant; Nastareen Khandaker and interns; Francesca Calarco and Madiha Hamdi and the staff of the Wang Center for their part in creating this great event and the exhibit of E Pluribus.

Beautiful Deadline

folded_craneHow great it is to have something to work toward. For my current show at the Wang Center of SUNY Stony Brook I made four new flags to add to the collection. In my last blog I talked about the fabrics that I collected for three of them, the Hmong, Mien and Balinese flags. I am very pleased with how they came out. As soon as I get some good photos they’ll be up on the site. But they are there at Stony Brook for another month and a half so you can go and see them in person.

I also made another Japanese flag since the original was sold. It’s there too, beautifully framed by Jane and Doug of the World Trade Art Gallery. For that flag I folded another 50 cranes which means I have now folded at least 100 cranes. I need to come up with a really good wish and fold the next 900 cranes in order to get it to come true. How about world harmony – not peace but harmony? With harmony we can be who we want to be, different and joyful in our difference, respectful and appreciative of our different contributions.

Who would like to join me in this wish? Here’s directions for crane folding if you’d like to:
http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/sprite/www/Origami/crane_gif.html

Treasure Trove

Yesterday was a very fun day, I hit a treasure trove of new materials for new flags. I already found a couple of great pieces for a Bali flag from Foreign Cargo in Kent, Connecticut so I thought I would go in and see if I could pull together the last pieces of the puzzle for that flag so I can finish it. The reason I am so excited about these new finds it because E Pluribus will be exhibited at the Wang Asian Art Center of Stony Brook University on Long Island this fall. I am delighted to have more Asian flags to include in the show. I had red and blue for the Bali flag but no white Ikat fabric. I found a great pink ikat instead; why the white is so hard to find I don’t know but I love the pink so here we go.

Then poking around some more in the fabulous collection of tribal imports that Jeff Kennedy brings back from the far east I discovered some great pieces from Vietnam and Thailand. I bought a pair of pants that Jeff had bought right off a Mien woman in the mountains Thailand. To go with the pants which will represent the stripe field of the flag I bought two headdresses with an assortment of stars already embroidered on them. The other find is cloth made from hemp by Hmong people to which I will add an embroidered panel made for a pillow case as the star field. My query becomes whether to call these flags by the name of the tribal people the materials represent or whether to name by the borders we recognize today: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos. I am inclined to honor the tribal names because these are people who cross borders and yet still hold an allegiance to their cultural roots no matter where they end up. In fact on wikipedia I discovered the American connection to the Mien and the Hmong people included here:

Most Mien Americans arrived in Laos from Southern China during the late 1800s. Reasons for this migration remain controversial, varying from political to socio-economic ventures. Many Mien American elders fought alongside the United States CIA during the “Secret War” of Laos in an effort to block weapon trails to Vietnam. When the American operation pulled out in 1975, hundreds of families were forced to seek refuge in the neighboring country of Thailand. Hundreds died during this heart-breaking journey on foot through the deep jungles of Southeast Asia. In the next few years, thousands settled in Thailand refugee camps awaiting uncertain fate. Through programs from the United Nations, roughly 60,000 were sponsored to western countries such as the United States.

Mien Women in traditional dress
Mien Women in traditional dress
Approximately 50,000 Mien settled along the western coast of the U.S. in states of Washington, Oregon and California. Approximately 10,000 settled in other parts of the country, in states of Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and other states. This ethnicity group has yet to be included in the United States Census and consequently, current population numbers have been skewed anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000. Since resettlement in America, historical contacts have been and continue to be made, between Mien Americans and Mien in China and Vietnam. Many Mien American relatives still remain in the countries of Laos and Thailand.

As a people from ancient, isolated farming societies, first Mien American generations struggled through obstacles of language, acculturation and more as they resettled in bustling, modern cities. As younger generations Americanize, they face generational gaps, loss of language, loss of culture, lack of identity and more. Community-based organizations formed among communities in Washington, Oregon and California to provide direct services, catering to resettlement issues.

They celebrated their 31st anniversary in Sacramento, California, on July 7, 2007. Achievement awards were given to Mien American doctors, lawyers, educators, scholars, leaders, and others.

There is a large population of Mien Americans that have settled in the city of Sacramento.

Hmong Women in Traditional Dress
Hmong Women in Traditional Dress
The Hmong (pronounced [m̥ɔ̃ŋ]), are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong are also one of the sub-groups of the Miao ethnicity (苗族) in southern China. Hmong groups began a gradual southward migration in the 18th century due to political unrest and to find more arable land.
A number of Hmong people fought against the communist-nationalist Pathet Lao during the Secret War in Laos. Hmong people were singled out for retribution when the Pathet Lao took over the Laotian government in 1975, and tens of thousands fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. Thousands of these refugees have resettled in Western countries since the late 1970s, mostly the United States but also Australia, France, French Guiana, and Canada. Others have been returned to Laos under United Nations-sponsored repatriation programs. Around 8,000 Hmong refugees remain in Thailand.

Fabrications

Well it takes me a while to get back to the blog because I don’t have a lot to say about the work until I’m in front of it and introducing it to people. Fabrications in Newport, New Hampshire, is a great show, I am so honored to be a part of it. The work is exquisitely exhibited and the pieces representing other artists were so exciting. I was inspired to explore creating some 3D projects and think even more outside the framework of the US flag but I am so far from representing enough of the diversity of people here in the US so I will stick to the current project for a while.
I was particularly inspired at the show by a lovely young lady, Lea, I’m not sure how she spells her name or how old she is, maybe 10 or so, but she was so smart. As we processed from flag to flag, the installation was such that each flag hung by itself yet you could see them together in the distance, brilliant. Anyway back to Lea she nailed every one of them; immediately recognizing the country or at least the continent by the qualities of the materials in the flag. I was impressed. Kids really get this project. I have a vision in the future of a generation that freely embraces cultural difference and celebrates that in life.

Imagine a future workplace, maybe offices will be obsolete, who knows but imagine OK the mall: a man walks by in a colorful dashiki, a woman elegantly flings the palu of her sari over her shoulder, two guys hold a meeting wearing Hawaiian shirts, some girls are running by wearing stacks of beads and batik printed sarong skirts, a boy wearing a tartan kilt flirts with them. Why not?

My sincere thanks go to Cynthia Reeves for inviting me to participate in FABRICATIONS, to Sara Mintz for tracking me down and making that introductory call which is so exciting to get, thanks also to Azariah Aker for his remarkable installation and for showing my work so exquisitely.

Work in Progress

It’s been a long time since I wrote the last blog. So there’s a lot to share. I am delighted the work is out there again for people to go and see it at LaGuardia ‘s Atrium Lobby Showcase Gallery East. There are three gorgeous glass cases in the lobby of the building and I have 8 flags in each of two cases and 4 in the center, including the new Mexican, Mali and Zaire American E Pluribus flags.The show will be up until January 30.

Meanwhile the project is always in progress. Right now my Mum has almost completed embroidering the English American flag it is amazing with rows of Tudor roses and heraldic crowns. We are both happy to see this flag come together because we are English and until this design came together we were feeling a bit left out.

There are so many different cultural facets to this country that we could be making these flags forever. Currently in progress are the Uzbekistan, the Madagascar, the Dutch, the Canadian two Italian and the French American flags. The way it works is that I ponder the recognizable imagery, or gifts of the various cultural demographics until I can come up with a really strong visual that applies comfortably to the US Flag design. The materials are very diverse and fun and allow me to explore all kinds of creative traditions from various points of view. For example, I just found a lovely Suzani cloth in Rome that I will use for the Uzbekistan flag’s star field. For the stripes I have some fabulous hand woven silk ikat that I bought online.

When I was in Amsterdam earlier this year I bought 100 wooden red tulips and a bunch of miniature clogs for the Dutch flag. I am still trying to figure out how to cobble it together. And believe me ‘cobble’ is a very good word for this here. The Madagascar flag is a very fun project. I am crocheting out of raffia a dimensional flag in the style of a great basket bag that I bought at Blue Bag at 266 Elizabeth Street in NYC. I’m always sending people there because everyone comments on the bag.

All of my friends are saving wine corks for me because, for the French flag I plan to stitch together about 1200 corks so that the red or white tips of the corks will express the stripes of the flag. The star field will be made from champagne corks with wire stars fashioned out of the champagne cork cages. They are looking really cool. Last year I collected dried and stored two boxes of bright red maple leaves for the Canadian American flag. I can’t believe I still haven’t had time to put that one together, I have all the parts. The field will be birch bark that I found in my local woods. The stripes out of the red maple leaves and the stars will be pine cones. My image of Canada is of rich and glorious wild forests. I have Venetian papers for one Italian flag and a design ready for construction of a marble tiled Italian flag.

So you can see there is plenty to do. Often I do get sidetracked like with the Mali flag which came together very quickly. I found the fabric after stumbling into a favorite shop on Greenwich Avenue and then I went to my local weekly flea market hoping that the African bead vendor would have some Mali wedding beads. How lucky I am, he was there for only the second time this year and he had only two Mali wedding bead necklaces so I bought them. One went into the flag, the other I’ve been wearing.

Well, I said there was a lot to share. I hope you can get to see the flags in person. If not please enjoy them at the online gallery of www.epluribus.us