Art with a sting: Tiny Pricks Project chronicles Donald Trump’s words with embroidery

  • Jan Whitaker, right, of Northampton holds a piece just completed by Sheena See, left, during a Tiny Pricks Project workshop at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Some two dozen women take part in a workshop at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery, in which they stitch quotes from Donald Trump onto fabric. Clockwise from left, Janet McAllister of Connecticut, Sara Kunkemueller of New Hampshire, Ginkgo Thalheimer of Northampton, Patty Mace of Connecticut and Vicki Van Zee of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • One of the pieces created in the Tiny Pricks Project reprises a comment by Donald Trump on the environment. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith College senior Stefany Alicea views a panel on loan from the national Tiny Pricks Project while she taking a break from a workshop for the public art project. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A participant in the Tiny Pricks Project views some of the pieces already created in the local TPP workshop at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Devon Mason McArdle of Whately stitches Donald Trump’s 2016 comment about Hillary Clinton onto fabric at a Tiny Pricks Project workshop at the A.P.E. Gallery. The national public art project involves recording Trump’s words on vintage textiles to create a material record of his presidency. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • One of the pieces created in the local Tiny Pricks Project workshop hangs in the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A detail of some of the pieces already created in the local Tiny Pricks Project workshop at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A piece in progress at the Tiny Pricks Project workshop at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A vintage quote from Donald Trump, part of the Tiny Pricks Project at the A.P.E. Gallery. The national public art project involves stitching Trump’s words into vintage textiles to create a material record of his presidency. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • About two dozen women take part in the second of two Tiny Pricks Project workshops at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A piece by Marta Rudolph, a textile and mixed-media artist from Northampton, in the Tiny Pricks Project show at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • One of the pieces created in the local Tiny Pricks Project workshop hangs in the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. The national public art project involves stitching the words of Donald Trump into vintage textiles to create a material record of his presidency. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Detail of a panel on loan from the national Tiny Pricks Project hanging in the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sara Kunkemueller of Exeter, New Hampshire, takes part in a Tiny Pricks Project workshop at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. The national public art project involves stitching the words of Donald Trump into vintage textiles to create a material record of his presidency. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A piece by Sue Briggs of Northampton recalls a comment Trump made in a television interview before he ran for president. Image courtesy A.P.E. Gallery

  • This piece recalls two comments Trump made the same night, during a debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016. Image courtesy A.P.E. Gallery

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2020 8:56:36 AM

Over the course of his public life, Donald Trump has made any number of incendiary, bizarre and flat-out false comments. And since he began his campaign for the presidency in 2015, Trump has kept the quotes coming at an ever-increasing, ever-exhausting pace.

“I am a very stable genius.” “I alone can fix it.” “Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?” “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” (The latter comment came the same night he referred to Hillary Clinton during a 2016 debate as “Such a nasty woman.”)

As much as they’ve become a central part of the 24-hour news cycle, including by inspiring rebuttals — the Washington Post says Trump has made over 16,200 false or misleading statements since taking office — Trump’s comments, since last summer, have also inspired a growing public art project, one that has now come to Northampton’s A.P.E Gallery.

The Tiny Pricks Project began early last year when a New York-based textile artist and activist, Diana Weymar, stitched “I am a very stable genius” onto an old piece of embroidery from her grandmother. Weymar said at the time that she found the experience “cathartic,” a way of viewing Trump’s words in a different context and of documenting them physically — a permanent record, so to speak, that could outlast the throw-away sensibility of Trump’s favorite medium, Twitter.

After posting on Instagram a photo of that work and similar textiles she made, Weymar began hearing from friends and others involved with needlework who said they wanted to take part in the effort. People also began sending her samples of their work — on handkerchiefs, doilies and other pieces of fabric. As word spread further on social media, Weymar connected last summer with the owner of a New York City clothing boutique who hosted the first public display of much of this craftwork.

In an interview last August with the web magazine “INSIDER,” Weymar said she coined the name for the project by thinking about “the act of stitching” and the idea of Trump’s quotes “pricking your conscience.”

“The reference to personal anatomy was less interesting to me,” she said. “I was interested in this idea of something just poking you again, and again, and again, and again — which is how Trump’s Twitter feed was feeling to me. And you get kind of numb.”

On the first Saturday of this month, A.P.E. was hosting a workshop for the latest public installation of this effort. Surrounded by panels displaying dozens and dozens of small pieces of fabric art that chronicled some of the president’s pearls of wisdom — “Look at my African American over here” and “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” — about 20 people sat at long tables arranged in the center of the gallery and began working on their own contributions to the project, either with their own fabric or on pieces provided by workshop organizers.

Other visitors wandered through the gallery to look at the work, which will be highlighted with a special presentation from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, during Northampton’s monthly Arts Night Out. Through Feb. 28, the exhibit can also be viewed daily from 2-5 p.m. (the gallery is closed on Mondays).

Jill St. Coeur, a fabric artist and clothing designer from Florence — she’s a former costume shop coordinator for Smith College — is the lead organizer for the A.P.E. exhibit. As she led a short tour of the art already on display, St. Coeur described how she’d learned of Weymar’s project last summer and got in touch with her about doing something similar in Northampton.

“I talked to friends here who really liked the idea,” said St. Coeur. “If you’re feeling helpless and frustrated about what’s happening in the country and about our president, this is a way to channel some of that…. It can feel really good to sit with your friends and work on this, be creative, and kind of throw Trump’s words back at him.”

It’s not just for women, either, St. Coeur said, even if needlework has traditionally been seen as a female craft. Back at her house, she noted, her son-in-law and her grandson were both working on Trump-inspired embroidery projects.

St. Coeur said she invited Weymar to come to Northampton and talk about her project, but that the New York artist couldn’t make it. She has, however, donated two large panels covered with fabric art to the A.P.E. show, including one piece that depicts two kittens gamboling underneath Trump’s comment that he likes to “grab [women] by the [expletive],” caught on tape during a lewd conversation he had with a TV host in 2005 and publicly revealed in October 2016 during the election campaign.

“Classy, isn’t it?” said St. Coeur.

‘Almost feels like voodoo’

Making a record of comments like this at first seemed like something of a double-edged sword to Sue Briggs of Northampton, who has helped St. Coeur put the exhibit together. “I was hesitant about getting involved with this,” she said. “I find so many of [Trump’s] comments and tweets so offensive. Why give them another platform?”

But with a laugh, Briggs said “Once Jill gets an idea in her head, she’s pretty hard to resist.” She also began to imagine that as she threaded her needle through a piece of fabric, “It almost feels like voodoo, like that needle is going right into [Trump].”

One of the pieces she’s created repeats a comment Trump made during a TV interview a few years before he ran for president, during which he said “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” Briggs has surrounded the word “beauty” with the outline of a heart and added arrows pointing to it, to emphasize what she calls Trump’s bottomless narcissism.

Taking part in the exhibit has also sharpened her long-dormant needlework skills, said Briggs. “Plus it’s just been fun to work on these pieces with friends.”

Marta Rudolph, a textile and mixed-media artist from Northampton, said she’s also enjoyed the sense of solidarity the project has produced. One of her contributions to the show presents Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russian nesting dolls beneath Trump’s comment “I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia.”

But Rudolph also admitted to feeling “a little depressed” in revisiting many of Trump’s comments, as if she were flashing back to the grief she felt after his election in November 2016. On the other hand, she said, “I think it’s good to make a record of so many of these unbelievable things he’s said.”

And Laura Sefelt, a mental health counselor and art therapist from Northampton who came to the Saturday workshop, said she hasn’t done any needlework for years but has been drawn to the project as a means for dealing with her anger about Trump’s presidency. “I often feel helpless, or I’m just shaking with rage,” she said. “But this is a way to redirect that, to be proactive.”

And as she considered the fabric pieces around her, she found herself smiling at the idea of turning that artwork into a means for rebutting a man widely seen as extremely thin-skinned. “The humor,” she said, “is very subversive.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

For more information about the Tiny Pricks Project, visit apearts.org and tinypricksproject.com.




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