NOTIONS: Piece work by 20 artists about factory girls, fatal fires, and the common threads that bind us all
About this piece:
Sewing boxes are an archive of family history, holding not only practical sewing notions-those small tools and supplies used to stitch and mend-but also saved scraps, cached papers and other private artifacts imbued with deeply personal stories. Notions takes as its organizing trope a sewing box that has passed down through four generations of an American family, beginning with Rosie, a seamstress who died in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. A century later it belongs to her great-grandniece, Katya, a designer of low-cost clothing, who awakens to the burden of her own history in the aftermath of the 2012 Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Bangladesh. Twenty artists set out to tell a tale in objects spanning that 100 years, recreating paper and fiber ephemera to convey their own notions about the value of a human life, women’s changing roles at home and at work, and the growing distance between consumers and producers.
A small digitally produced catalog accompanies the work, providing a fictional narrative derived from artist statements and serving as a guide for reading this unique artists’ book.
The back stories: The Triangle fire killed 146 young immigrant workers, who either burned inside the building or jumped to their deaths because the factory doors were locked, among other unsafe practices. One of the worst workplace disasters in American history, it galvanized the city and the nation to fight for workplace protections, spurred union organizing, and inspired far-reaching reforms that continue to protect Americans today. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, however, where workers in search of economic opportunities were asked to meet a staggering global demand, the lessons did not prevent another 112 people from losing their lives.
Twenty member artists of the Virginia Arts of the Book Center together produced the limited edition artists’ book, Notions. They are: Kristin Adolfson, Josef Beery, Bonnie Bernstein, Janet Eden, Stacey Evans, Lotta Helleberg, Angie Hogan, Donna Knoell, Nancy Kober, Lana Lambert, Kevin McFadden, Yolanda Merrill, Barbara Payne, Garrett Queen, Frank Riccio, Rachel Singel, Dorothy Smith, Cecilia Sorochin, Laura Sprung, and Michael Swanberg.
papers, oil-based and pigment inks, watercolors, textiles, thread, acrylics, objects
Twenty member artists of the Virginia Arts of the Book Center collaborated on this artists’ book. The Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC) is a community-access studio for artists exploring books, paper, and printmaking. Members include art students and faculty of the University of Virginia and other area institutions, studio artists, letterpress printers, book binders, paper makers, graphic designers, writers, illustrators and novices of the book arts. Each year, member artists at every level participate in a collaborative project. (See list of artists in additional notes.)