Saturday, March 24, 2012

Image Sources

The ceremonies commemorating the 101st anniversary of the fire were yesterday. The weather was mild and almost benevolent; in the breeze the 146 hand-made shirtwaists, each one with a sash bearing the name and age of a victim and mounted on tall bamboo poles, moved like ghostly sails in the street. At the end of the ceremony, a fire truck runs its ladder up against the building where the fire occurred, but only as far as a ladder could go in 1911---and that is to the 6th floor, while the fire raged on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors. The visual reality of that awful gap between rescue and death is almost unbearable. Then volunteers read aloud the name and age of each victim, and place a white carnation on the sidewalk. I met and talked with several family members of victims, some of whom have photos of their lost relatives. With the commemoration over, I will focus on the archives of the coalition as well. I hope that within a few weeks I will be able to offer a number of portraits for use in the quilt. Many of the photos exist only in 101-year-old newspaper clippings--at the moment, they enlarge into blurred, pointillist images, which may work very well for us. I'd like to have as many of the victims represented as we can, but I also believe the quilt needs to speak to the present as well. If you would like to do one of these haunting young faces as your square, let me know and I will try to send out the best images I can reproduce.

Eager to start!

All afternoon my mind has been reeling with block design ideas! I'm happy to be given an opportunity to take part in a project that speaks to my interests in woman's rights and fair labor practices. Quilting is such a tactile and sensory art media. It lends its self to be appropriately suited as a memorial to the woman lost in the Triangle Factory fire. Please keep me up to date on the schedule. Also is the block 14x14 inch finished? Pauline

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Triangle Fire Open Museum

There's an exhibit on the Triangle Fire at the NYU Open House Gallery, 528 La Guardia Place (between W. 3rd St. and Bleecker), throughout the coming weekend. Hours are: Thurs., 2-7 pm; Friday, 12-5 pm; Sat/Sun:1-4 pm. The show includes articles, documents, and other material from the coalition's Open Archive, and will be a great source of ideas and images for our quilt project. The reception/benefit is tomorrow (March 23) from 4:30-7:00, with light refreshments, wine, and entertainment. The benefit is part of our campaign for the building of a permanent memorial; since we are a coalition of artists, writers, teachers, union folk, historians, descendants of victims, and students, the requested donation is $20.00, at the door. Everyone is welcome to this---it would be a terrific way to catch the flavor of the coalition and to get a broader perspective on our purpose.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting the quilt off the ground, so to speak

This is the opening post of what I hope will become a space rich with shared ideas, resources, and reactions. The Triangle Fire Memorial Quilt will take off from the fire itself, honoring the mostly young, immigrant victims, but also celebrating the history of working people in America--especially women and especially in the needle trades. Within that tapestry are threads of unions, courage, strikes, songs, art, and even moments of joy and victory. There are so many ways this quilt can take shape. I see the project at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics, about both the collaborative process and the product itself. There are so many different ways to create a square for the quilt--- what I see when this project keeps me up at night are mostly representational, images drawn from photographs, posters and other graphics, sheet music, relevant text and symbols. There are fabulous online resources for images; I've listed some essential ones here, but I'm sure you will have your own sources as well.
Kheel Collection at Cornell University they have an exhibit on the fire up now, as well as other digitized collections. casts a wider net.

The Library of Congress--a fabulous resource. (National Child Labor Committee, early 20th century)
Once you're on the LOC site, you'll find endless paths to explore.
Most of what you'll will be long out of copyright, but you should check with the institution about rights and access and attribution.
I know this a lot of information to absorb--it gives you an idea how rich and varied this quilt will be. Quilters and other artists (did I mention that painting a square would be wonderful?) can email me a snail-mail address and I will send out a 14 x 14" muslin square as a base---but feel free to use whatever fabric you want to. I know everyone is busy and harried, and this will take time---but I also know from personal experience that deadlines can be immensely inspirational; I'll think of something reasonable and let you know.