String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Artby Elissa Auther spells out the bias of the art establishment. She explains how an artist who started as a sculptor and transitioned to textiles will be perceived as more artistically valid than someone who evolved from quilting to textile art. It's the sort of book I can't read at bedtime because I will not be able to sleep, just lie there seething.
After reading it, I sewed it. If you haven't read it, please consider this piece a wearable book report. It is a textile argument, constructed on top of an old tuxedo: a formal argument, both in logic and dress.
Maybe because I had recently seen a show at the Metropolitan Museum on ceremonial clothing, I knew this had to be a garment. I googled 'ceremonial garments' and that got me started (I found a great image of Prince Charles, which explained what all his badges and medals represented).
A very nice lady had given me this old, gray woolen jacket, seen here with my banner. Over the years, I've built up a collection of thermofax screens with directions for crochet, mending, knitting or information about archaeological textiles. I printed these words on dyed cloth, and sewed together various patchwork bits.
Then I found the perfect old tuxedo jacket at a garage sale - it even fit me! The gray jacket was out - the tuxedo was in. All I had to do now was sew on all the bits and patches that I had created.
Lots of medals, awarded for DETAIL, SKILL, DESIGN, BY HAND, STITCHES (embroidered onto an old girl scout badge for sewing). The epaulets are impossibly over-the-top: I just kept making them thicker and thicker and used parts of old leather work gloves to finish them off. I had to have them. With all this business about concepts and legitimacy and hierarchies...I wanted to add some indication of the actual WORK involved.
The embroidered letters read "Oh my - there's a concept embedded here!" Couldn't help being flippant.
Formal Argument, displayed on a dress form with a black tuxedo shirt, was featured in FiberPhiladelphia 2012, where Elissa Auther (who wrote String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art) was the keynote speaker.