"Flowers of the Arab Spring - Knight of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot."
by Susan Shie Contact me
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"Flowers of the Arab Spring - Knight of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot."
©Susan Shie 2012. 60"h x 74"w. inventory #415. Peace Cozy #44.
Began 2-4-12. Finished 2-29-12.
Note: I have a whole album of photos of my sketches for this piece and the process of airbrush painting it, that you can see on my Facebook page, whether or not you're a member of Facebook. I hope you have time to go see these, after reading this statement and viewing my finished piece detail shots that are here, below the statement. Thanks!
Materials: White kona cotton, airbrush paint, fabric paint. Aurifil cotton machine thread, Artfabrik perle cotton embroidery thread, one Green Temple Buddha Boy bead. Nature-fil bamboo and organic cotton batting. Backing fabrics include Lunn Fabrics batiks.
Techniques: Whole cloth painting. Freehand black line drawing and color areas painting made with Aztek double action airbrush and Createx airbrush paint. Small journal writing made with Silkpaint.com’s basic Airpen and Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paint. Crazy grid machine quilting and one row of hand stitching (just on the border edge.)
The story: I pulled at random the Knight of Swords card in the traditional tarot deck, in finding out what my next minor card piece in my Kitchen Tarot series would be. Of the 78 cards, I finished and published the 22 major cards in 2010, and this is my 15th of the 56 minor card pieces. I still hope it will only take me from 1998 to 2022 to complete this project.
The Knight of Swords, Paring Knives in my kitchen deck, is a defender, a person of action, regarding the suit of swords, which is air, which is thought, word, movement, communication. I thought of Joan of Arc, a woman warrior, and decided my piece would have two strong women of words, who are both involved in the Arab Spring, the wave of democratic revolutions going on in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA.)
I chose my friend Carolyn Robinson, who’s in Libya on assignment to train new journalists in a post-conflict situation. Carolyn has worked in television journalism since we both graduated from Kent State in 1986, and after working for CNN for many years, took off to work in Hong Kong for the handover, then went on to other countries, ending up in the Middle East for years now.
The other woman I chose is Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian social justice worker, who’s almost solely responsible for bringing the Martin Luther King Jr, Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Gandhi freeing India histories to the Egyptian revolution, by translating a book about these things, made in 1958, into Arabic, and making sure it got into everyone’s hands, before and during the early protest days of 2010 in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Dalia is famous for her blogging from Cairo about freedom for Egypt, and her struggle for women’s rights in the Arabic world. In her blog she has always used her real name, and she is fluent in English, so she has been very active in women’s world conferences lately.
I put Dalia holding up the MLK book, and Carolyn leaning toward her, holding up a microphone, with her big old laptop case under her arm. I put a horse up in the sky above them (saying my dog Libby was the model for said horse) and drew four palm trees, with my paring knives in their trunks (since I think of paring knives as strong tools, not as weapons.)
I had all this stuff in my sketches, but when I was airbrushing in the images in the large piece of white cloth on the wall, I suddenly chose to put some ancient Egyptian women at the bottom of the piece, so there’d be no doubt that this was about that part of the world. I already had pyramids in the sketches, I think, and put a set of three on each side, for balance. The group of four ancient Egyptian ladies is lifted, freehand, from an image I found online, that turned out to be Hebrew women coming to Egypt in a caravan around 1800 BC, before the Israelites became slaves in Egypt. I loved their printed color dresses and big brown shoes! They were definitely strong women, so compelling that the Egyptian women started copying their hairstyles and using Kohl around their own eyes, to copy the Hebrew women’s dark features.
I found another woman in an image by herself, which I think is also a Hebrew woman, since she also has a printed dress on. The ancient Hebrews wove their sheeps’ wool into patterned cloth, very unlike the Egyptians’ white cotton garments. I invented a big Egyptian lady’s head, to look into the scene from the bottom right. At first it looked more like Gadhafi to me, but I put a big eye into the chin, and thankfully, it turned into the woman I’d wanted it to be!
I put a big sun in the sky, above the knight’s horse, so you’d feel the heat of the Arabian desert. Of course I gave my Sun extra eyes, like I did everyone else in the piece. The third eye is the Hindu window to the soul, the brow chakra, and the fourth eye is my own invention, for the soul’s communication to our conscious selves and others, at the throat chakra.
2-4-12: I selected the tarot card I would use and made sketches, then started painting with my airbrush. I really wanted to stop painting, when it only had black, yellow, and orange in the painting, as it looked so much like a hot, dry desert scene. But I know I needed to go on, so of course, it got very colorful, before all that airbrushing was done! I’ve been using a little grayed black for areas in my recent work, so here it was in the women’s rich dark hairdos.
So in the writing, which I started doing on Feb 6, I mainly wanted to tell about my two strong women – Carolyn and Dalia. But I also planned to tell about what’s going on in the Middle East and in the US and in my own life. Stories about Libya and Egypt shared the news with Syria, as Al Assad’s army continues to attack his own people, in spite of world disgust with such crimes. I wrote Dalia’s bio on her dress. Here are things I wrote about with my airpen and fabric paint:
2-7-12: Egypt has detained a bunch of Americans who work for NGOs there, planning to put them on trial for giving money to the rebels and breaking rules. Egyptians are back to protesting in Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other cities, because the military is still running the country, after nearly a year of Mubarak stepping down. The People say the military isn’t protecting them or bringing in democracy. China and Russia have vetoed a UN Security Council sanction of the Syrian government for killing its people. There’s been a big hubbub about the Komen Foundation dumping its aid to Planned Parenthood last week, then reinstating it, then today Komen’s Karen Handel (a Tea Party person) resigned, due to protests of her involvement in the Planned Parenthood mess. Gulf Arab states recall their envoys from Syria and send Syrian ambassadors home, over the violence in Syria. This was a big day in news and my diary writing!
2-8-12: I wrote the meaning of the Knight of Swords on the horse. Prop 8 has been overturned in California. It had blocked the new gay marriage law in 2008. It’ll be appealed, natch. I just read that Dalia Ziada had said that Women are the Flowers of the Arab Spring. This is well after I made up this name for this piece. Maybe I’d already read that she said that, and had forgotten. It seems too coincidental!
2-10-12: I got Carolyn Robinson to write out all the places she’s lived in the world, and I wrote all of that all over her dress. She also gave me a resume, and I wrote parts of that around her, in the background.
2-11-12: I’m reading a book: Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East – the Egyptian Experience, © Caryle Murphy 2002.
2-13-12: GEM was here all weekend. Rare for this year: big snowstorm all weekend. They went to see the WAGE show with me at our arts center. Whitney Houston died Sat night, 2-11, making the Grammys a very tender and sad event the next night. She was only 48. Eva loves my iPad and drew a lot with it this weekend. Today the governor of Washington State signed same sex marriage into law, making it the 7th state to have it. I’m writing out MLK’s whole story of Gandhi freeing India from England, which is in the comic book style book that Dalia translated, that I told about earlier.
2-14-12: Yesterday Art Holden had a great article about Jimmy in our newspaper. He’d been here about two hours, interviewing Jimmy about his leather work. I copied all of MLK’s sermon from the comic book, about how to use the Montgomery and India method of nonviolent protest to suit your own needs for social change.
2-17-12: Syrian freedom fighter Razan Ghazzawi was rearrested in Damascus yesterday, along with the rest of the staff at their office for social change media. In Cairo protesters marched on the Syrian and Russian embassies. Three African women share the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, including Yemen’s Tawakkol Karmen, a pro-democracy fighter of the Arab Spring.
2-18-12: Today I skyped with Carolyn and caught up on her adventures in Tripoli, Libya. She sent me a video of candle lanterns floating over the city at night, at a big celebration of freedom there, the one year anniversary of the “Day of Revolt.” I wrote about Claudette Colvin, the 15 year old first protester of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, before Rosa Parks. Her story is on the Sun. Amine El Khalifi, a Morrocan 29 year old man tried to blow up the US Capitol yesterday. He’s lived in the US since he was 16. Thought FBI guys were Al Qaeda. I went back to Twitter today, and set up following several news agencies of the Middle East: Aljazeera English, etc, so I can check more on what’s going on there. I really don’t like Twitter much!
I wrote here about the July, 2009 murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who hadn’t even been to a protest yet, in Tehran, Iran. Sniper fire killed her, and we all saw cell phone videos of her dying. It really energized the world, but even now, Iran has gotten nowhere, and it had the first revolution, before Tunisia and Egypt. I made a piece about her, that recorded lots of messages people sent to Twitter then – that’s when I first went on Twitter, to find out what the Iranian protesters were saying. I even put that my town was Tehran, as they asked us all to do that, so the government couldn’t find the protesters on Twitter. I need to finish that piece!!!!
I’m now reading “O Jerusalem” by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre. It ends in 1972, but it gives a really deep description of the struggles between the Arabs and Israelis, from the late 1800s on. I need more background understanding of so much there. We all do! On 2-16-12 Anthony Shadid, Lebanese-American reporter of the Middle East, died in Syria, but of an asthma attack, not what we thought. He was reporting in Homs, the city taking the most violent attacks from the Syrian government. I copied a lot from Margalit Fox’s NY Times obit for him. It’s really moving. What a loss!!!
2-19-12: Jimmy suggested I draw some of my peace roses as tattoos on the women in this piece, so I did. Then I made the quilt sandwich of painting, bamboo batting, and a backing I sewed together, and got that all pinned together the next day and started quilting it.
2-21-12: I visited Dr Viola Startzman, 98, who lives at West View Manor, where my parents lived at the end of their lives. I’ve wanted to meet her since I first heard of her in 1976, when I first went to Planned Parenthood, and they told me that she had given them her house for their building. It was pretty cool, too. Big old light green house on Beall Ave, near our commune.
2-24-12: I’ve finished the quilting. This piece, like Sweet Jane before it, is really only middle sized for me, so it’s going fast. Yea! I hung it up again and drew a big peace rose on the horse with washable markers, then painted it down on the studio table, with fabric paints. It got too bright and dark. Ugh.
2-25-12: Scrubbing the colors on that rose on the horse, damage control. Later I’ll have to go back and go over some of the writing here, as the scrubbing is fading the writing, even though it’s heatset. Yesterday Hamas, the Palastinian organization, came out in favor of the Syrian rebels, and against the Syrian government, which has always given money to Hamas. This is heavy! Dr Viola Startzman is a big supporter of an Egyptian Coptic Christians NGO called CEOSS, which is one of the groups whose workers will go on trial in Egypt for aiding the rebels. Dr Vi is worried about them. Afghanis are killing Americans in Kabul, because at a US airbase there, tragically some Qurans were burned disrespectfully. I sewed my 44th Peace Cozy onto Carolyn’s cheek today. I wish to send her protection vibes. I sewed the casings for the back of this piece on my sewing machine and then hand sewed them onto the piece, while I watched the movie “The Magdalene Sisters,” about the prisonlike laundry “assylums” for “fallen women” in Ireland and other countries in the 1800s and up til 1996! This movie came out six years after the last one closed. It was REALLY hard to watch. There wasn’t anything good or easy to watch in the whole movie. Thank God they stopped that craziness! 2-26-12: I sewed my brass D-rings above the casings tonight, while watching the Oscars. The only one of these movies I’ve seen is “Midnight in Paris.”
2-27-12: It’s Chelsea Clinton’s 32nd birthday today! I wrote about her life on the border of the piece. I bet she goes into politics soon! She’s working on her fourth degree, a doctorate in international affairs of some kind. I’m reading Anthony Shadid’s 2005 book about Iraq during the American occupation. This is the reporter who died last week in Syria. Just watched a new documentary about organic food and small farms as the hope for our future: FRESH. They’ve got the whole thing on the internet just for a week. Doug Hall had really severe open heart surgery today! 5 arteries replaced! Jimmy’s been on the phone and email a LOT over this, very concerned!
2-28-12: Another super nice winter day! I finished airpen writing on this piece and did a final heatset. Sewed on the little Green Temple Buddha Boy bead in the bottom right corner. Used airpen to make the label on the back, right on the fabric. Looked for loose threads when I hung it up on the photo wall. Tomorrow’s another day to check again. That’s when I’ll do the photo shoot. This week I made a new blog for the Food Co-op, Wooster Natural Foods, and made an entry on my own blog for the first time since last May. I put a photo of this piece, “Flowers of the Arab Spring” up as a new masthead on my blog: you just see part of a peace symbol batik cloth, part of the back of the quilt, as it hangs on the clothesline in my studio. Two clothespins. I love clothespins. Maybe I’ll reshoot it with more clothespins, as I usually have a whole bunch holding up a piece that I’ve put up to check for where else I need to add grid sewing lines. Anyhow, I really like that photo! You can’t see the front of the piece there yet, but soon!
If you'd like to come and study with me here in Wooster at my studio, please check out my current Turtle Art Camp schedule and information. It's a biosphere of a place to live and work in for a week or any number of class days you decide on. Begun in 1994, Turtle Art Camp is alive and well. In fact, it's kickin'!
That’s all she wrote. -- Lucky, Susan Shie in Wooster, 2-29-12, on Leap Day!
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