Over the years, I keep coming back to the idea of security: what makes us feel safe? There are no plagues, famines or invading hordes rampaging into our homes (yes, there's AIDS and ISIS and the A-bomb, but for most of us lucky people, these are dangers we read/hear about, not endure personally). Yet we are anxious, insecure, afraid....why? And how do we cope?
Security Blanket 2009 (46"h x 26"w)
Many cultures have developed their own symbolic forms of protection. Even today, some people think a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover will bring them luck. This ‘blanket’ is encrusted with every possible protective device, for maximum security:
It has mirrors, coins, buttons and bells to deflect the evil eye; heavily embroidered seams to keep evil from getting in; multiple patterns (in the belief that evil spirits would have to“read” each pattern before getting through); broken lines (because evil travels in straight lines); embroidered flowers and fruits, and cowrie shells, to enhancing fertility: religious medals, scapulars and rosaries to gain divine protection; amulets and pouches of magical charms.
In the British Museum in London, I saw a garment which was totally embellished in Arabic writing and symbols. In a pre-literate culture, the written word holds great power, and the markings were thought to protect the wearer.
When my local library was switching over to digital information, I asked what they did with the old cards: they generously gave me thousands. After sorting the cards according to color and size, I machine sewed them into the two garments. With their stamps demonstrating such extensive reading, I imagined these garments to have great protective power.
In the pocket, a library card has the title, Talismanic Tunic, and an explanation. This colorful one is called Literacy Jacket, and they were both constructed around 2006.
African hunting jackets are embellished with magical items not merely to protect, but to aid the hunter in the quest.
(Treasure) Hunting Jacket (36"h x 27"w)
Inspired by one I saw at the NYC Tribal and Textile show one year, I created a jacket for hunting at garage sales. It has many small woolen pockets and replicas of antique sewing rollups (each containing some garage-sale treasure). The old tweed jacket (which I turned inside-out) came from a thrift shop. The jacket is encrusted with buttons, religious medals, keys, tools, and other objects found in years of gathering. One sleeve fold has a small African sculpture, wearing a hand sewn hunting jacket, to give tribute to the source.
I tried using another tweed jacket to address anxiety and fear, but it never quite came together: