Janna and I met up on a rather chilly October day in 2014 in Tompkins Square Park, located in the East Village's Alphabet City, to offer an embroidery skillshare. This park, where hawks eat rats while people gawk, has been the site of many conflicts between NYC's homeless and transient population and the city, most recently under Koch's mayorship in a 1988 riot. Now that the East Village has been swooped in on by "fucking yuppies", to quote a NYC resident from the Blowback productions film "Captured", the vibe of the neighborhood is a little different. However, the park maintains a solid representation of "transients" for lack of a better term, and is shared by young skateboarders, families, goths, fashionistas and other neighborhood residents making their collective way to and fro.
We set up shop, inviting people to learn to embroider or showcase their existent skills on an indigo printed fabric designed by Janna entitled: "Why is a Rock". I love this piece of fabric. Something about the shapes and its inherent simplicity, the representation of the stones, they all speak to me at a profound level. Plus, it's a stunning piece of handiwork. So we sat with this fabric in the sunshine, embroidering and interacting with anyone curious enough to approach.
A couple of hours in, we moved to a tabletop location where the above photo was shot. We soon discovered, upon moving ourselves there, that it was a hangout spot for folks that spent a lot of time at the park, and there was a lot of activity that moved around us. Some people engaged with us and tried their hand embroidering, others just acknowledged us and went about their business. There was no beef about encroachment of territory, we were doing something just weird enough to garner a certain level of respect. We lasted in that spot another hour or so before packing up, all in all a good day spent in the park. I believe we may have even seen a hawk eating a rat that day, up in a tree as we were walking out.
Tompkins Square Park I, photographed above, is currently on display at The Kube studios in Gibsons, BC alongside three of Janna's tapestries. The opening will be held on Friday, January 12th from 6-9pm, at 101-875 Gibsons Way.
I pulled elements from the photo: the bricks, the yellow leaves, the indigo "rocks" in the fabric, one of the embroidery hoops, and integrated them into the composition. I finished the piece off at the top with a representation of the park bench, and Janna's red handbag miniaturized, sitting upon it. The blue wool that represent the "rocks" in the fabric was indigo hand-dyed in the front yard of one of Janna's Jersey City apartments.
A playful, indirect representation, the composition of this tapestry erases the spatial distinctions apparent in the photograph. There are no people in this shot - even though the skill share was based in human interaction - and I wanted to build upon this idea of isolating a moment in such a way that it abstracts the event it was taken within. This photo, and the representative tapestry, are but glimpses of an event that took place and included the many human - and non-human - movements of the park. In both isolated representations - one based upon the other - you see the leaves from the trees and one sole park bench; the traces of the skillshare - a blackboard already wiped clean, the embroidery hoops with nobody working at them.
So the tapestry both holds memory and simultaneously fails to portray depth of experience. In giving the tapestry the same background color throughout, I was intentionally divesting the it of dimensionality, hoping it would read more as representation of idea than as a still life. I wanted the idea behind the piece to become a source of interrogation for the viewer. In deconstructing the image of this isolated moment, my hope was that the context of our skillshare and our collaborative work as social practice could embed itself within the work. Beyond being a representation, the intention was for it to be a continuation of our collaboration - a living, breathing, active participant in the evolution of the project of Everlea.