Memorializing Larry Downs, Arnie Zane, Eddie, Tom Gauthier, Peter Spa, Gerard Wagner, Queen Helene, and David Summers.
This 12’x 12′ square block features eight distinct panels memorializing eight individuals who have died from aids. Each panel is made of a soft fabric and sewn onto a large, 12’x 12′ piece of ivory linen fabric.
This much larger piece of fabric creates a beige border around the entire block, helping to unify and encapsulate the various panels within it. The same border features 16 silver holes (most likely composed of aluminum) evenly placed 3 feet apart from each other around the entire block, creating four holes on each side.
The background color choice for the panels on this particular block is predominantly white, though it appears cream due to them aging. This is because each of these white panels feature some kind of original art work, using the once white background to mimic a canvas. Each one of these panels appeared to use similar mediums in their art work, specifically various colors of paint and jet black ink. Of the six white panels, none of them appeared to be primed for non-fabric paint, a distinction I believe I would be able to see.
A similarity among all of these is the fact that the featured artwork is sectional. By this, I mean that the entire panel was not used for the artwork, rather it is concentrated on a quarter of the panel (or any other measurement), leaving the rest blank or only featuring the name of the loved one.
The top right and top center of the block features the only two panels that used different colors. The top center panel, belonging to Eddie (no last name reported), has a mosaic background of 6″x 6″ burgundy, soft dusty rose, light bubblegum pink, and sapphire blue squares. His name is then sewn in large, cursive lettering across the top left half of the panel.
The top right panel, belonging to Queen Helene, features a black background with black, slightly risen, roses all over it. The roses mimic velvet, only visible because the light reflects solely on the roses. I am not sure what kind of fabric it was, but it was not velvet, only similar to velvet visually.
Although tied by a similar tragedy, each panel exhumes individuality through applying different artistic methods. The holes placed along the border of the block reminds me that this one block is part of an entire quilt of people. This made me wonder, was this block included in the inaugural display of the Quilt on the National Mall in 1987?
After researching on the AIDS Memorial Quilt website, I realized that it actually was! That means this block is at least 30 years old!
Since the panels would be featured in the Quilt as a visual memorial and not as a blanket, I wondered why the panels that were predominantly paintings were not made of canvas fabric instead of fabrics associated with apparel, or at least primed with some kind of Gesso to preserve the piece.
I am by no means an expert, but as an artist who has experimented with different mediums on both primed and un-primed fabrics, I can attest for the value of using the right mediums on their respective materials. Though I am sure acceptable fabric paints were mostly used, I could tell where they were not.
For instance, the bottom right panel for David Summers features a beautiful abstract painting in the top left corner with deep cadmium yellow (one of my favorite colors to paint with) and bright red acrylic paint. Observing closely, I noticed that the acrylic paint was cracking on, what appeared to be, un-primed cotton fabric.
Though this may seem minimal to some, I am sure the loved ones who made the panel did not anticipate this occurring and would have wanted to prevent it.
Regardless of all I have mentioned, it is important to recognize that perhaps the loved ones did not have access to these materials to help preserve the panels, or that they chose not to for any reason. Maybe they wanted the panels to age so that future generations, like me, could see how long the AIDS pandemic has been with us. I for one am a big fan of this idea.
In conclusion, I am excited to revisit the Quilt and view this block again, as well as other blocks. I chose this block in particular because of the artwork featured on it and hope to view more blocks featuring even more artwork.
Appropriation– A form of malleability, how an art work can be altered, that refers to the recognition of an old image (icon) in a new image (remix).
Citation– A means of giving credit to a source for the information one is presenting. Ethically, it allows one to borrow information from another source without stealing it. Citations also helps viewers look deeper into the information being cited.
Curate – This describes how an archivist chooses which archives to include, and not include, in a collection.
Finding Aid – A companion text to an archive that helps the viewer understand the data in the archive they are studying.
Hyper-literate Culture– Describes how images act as a kind of “shorthand” to deliver a complex message in contemporary forms of communication.
Identifier – A reference to help one find a specific archive in a collection.
Material Culture– Artifacts from a specific time and space that hold cultural significance.
Metadata – A set of information/data on other data. Elements of metadata include dates, times, titles, and author names. Descriptive data is one of the many types of metadata, using the elements just mentioned to identify key investigatory information, such as author and title, to contextualize an archive. Similarly, catalog data is concerned with compound archives and how they are ordered/put together.
Observational Research– A form of primary research that involves a careful and thorough documentation of the world.
Prownian Analysis– An in-depth, schematic method of research to use when studying material culture. It begins with description, followed by deduction and speculation, leading to a comprehensive final analysis.
Tagging– A practice in archiving that consists of adding tags, keywords or phrases, to an archive in order to help others easily find it and other related archives.
Thesis– A statement put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved. (Oxford Living Dictionary) A thesis is most commonly argumentative, analytical, or expository.
Thick Description– Used in Prownian Analysis when studying material culture. Entails illustrating the physical properties of an object in an especially thorough matter.
Triangulation of Data– Using several different research methods to give another piece of data more credibility by giving it validation.
Web Directories– An online research tool that provides categories and subcategories to find a broad set of websites concerning a given topic, rather than allowing users to search key words like search engines.
Visual Rhetoric– The use of visual text and design to deliver a message to an audience. This includes photographs, art work, advertisements, and even memes.
Starting from the bottom of the headphones, we find a lightening port only available to iPhone models made after the iPhone 7. This silver port is smaller than the size of a pea and features an oblong, white oval and a handful of vertical aluminum lines.
Connecting the port to the cord of the headphones is a glossy white, plastic material that is about one and a half centimeters long. This hard material is one of the two primary materials composing the entire pair of headphones.
The other material used is a neutral grey plastic that is both highly malleable and posses a soft matte finish. This is used on the cord of the headphones. Its primary function is to coat the wire below it, as exposed wire is hazardous. However, here it is also used as a means to display the neutral grey mentioned before.
This is significant because now we can see how the light grey and white compliment each other to create a traditional minimalist look. This intentional design is meant to make the headphones look clean and simplistic. As we move up along the cord, we can see how other parts of the headphones also reflect this purpose.
The thin grey cord is abruptly separated into two much thinner cords about two feet from the lightening port, located at the bottom of the headphones. This creates a left and right cord which holds the left and right ear pieces, respectively.
The left cord has an adjustable small piece that is used to hold the two cords together. This square shaped tool is made of the same soft material as the cord and is matte white.
The right cord has a slim white remote that is used to control the volume of the headphones, when it plays or pauses, and it houses a microphone. The remote itself is completely white and features a matte grey center. This unlabeled center is used to pause or play music. The vary top and bottom of this piece is labeled with a ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbol, respectively. These buttons are used to control volume.
At the very end of these two pieces are identical EarPods. They are made of the same glossy white material as the lightening port and slim remote. Each ear piece is labeled with a plain ‘L’ and ‘R’ to denote with ear the piece fits in. The only opening on the EarPods is a narrow oval that exposes the black plastic netting of the speaker inside of it.
This description helps us understand why these headphones were designed the way they were by drawing answers from physical attributes. It also helps us understand the reason why this item would be significant to its user.
I assumed these headphones would be an object Cameron uses every day to primarily listen to music. I came to this conclusion because of the dirt on the headphones– clearly exhibiting how often they have been used in a short period of time. This was confirmed when I asked Cameron the following questions:
1. How long have you had these?
Cameron: I got them with my new phone. Shows me iPhone X. So, I’ve had them since December.
2. How often do you use these?
Cameron: Every day, probably 3-4 hours total.
3. How would you feel if you didn’t have them for a day?
Cameron: Totally lost. If I didn’t have them, I’d probably have a bad day.
In conclusion, it appears that the connections I made between Cameron and his headphones were accurate. This activity would be an example of how someone studying material culture could apply Prownian analysis to everyday objects in their own lives.
Though I would not describe Haltman’s piece as riveting, I do find the information given to be written in such a way that it held my attention. In fact, I genuinely found it interesting to read. The descriptive, yet concise language used was, at times, beautiful to read.
For instance, instead of telling the reader their writing should be descriptive and organized, Prown says, “imbue your description with the thick texture of taxonomy yet with the flow of narrative.” (Haltman 3)How incredibly well written is that?
As the text progressed, it moved beyond description and towards finding meaning in what was described. Why does the texture matter? What effect does the use of warm colors have on me? These questions would ultimately lead to the final question: Why is this object culturally significant?
Each question mentioned previously is fairly subjective and up for interpretation. This would imply that if a group of people individually answered them, the resulting answers would be as varied as each person is to each other. Prown agrees– stating that, “it seems to depend on a linkage… between the object and some fundamental human experience…” (Haltman 2)
This means we could never get to a definitive, universal answer to how a particular object holds significance, since every person would come to a different answer. However, this does not mean the answer we come to is meaningless.
Haltman, Kenneth. American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture. Michigan State University Press-East Lansing. September 20, 2000. Date Accessed: January 23, 2017.
Many are unaware of the impact AIDS has had on the lives of ordinary people and celebrities alike. With the added stigmatism surrounding HIV/AIDS, it has become increasingly difficult to educate the general public on this health issue.
Unfortunately, the marginalization of individuals with HIV/AIDS, combined with the ignorance of the general populace on HIV/AIDS, has created an environment for this pandemic to grow.
The NAMES Project Foundation has sought out to halt this escalation in 1987 through the collection of quilts that family members personalized to their loved ones who died from AIDS.
Each quilt, measuring 3′ x 6′ to imitate the size of a coffin, was collected and collaged into a block of quilts. On October 11th of 1987, these blocks were laid on the Washington Mall during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Collectively, 1,920 quilts were displayed that day.
Today, that number has surpassed 48,000.
When attempting to describe my first impression of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the word ‘unsettling’ appears in my thoughts. The quilts, intimately personal and beautiful, carry a revolutionary-like weight when displayed that immediately captivates any audience. Each quilt is so personal that it almost felt inappropriate of me to look at them– almost as if I were invading someones privacy.
But thats the whole point, to feel disturbed and uncomfortable, for only complacency results from feeling content. While admiring these quilts, I felt like I was being told to not forget the unsettling feeling I had and to act on it.
Furthermore, to naively leave the AIDS Memorial Quilt and not understand how much progress we have left is to completely miss its purpose. This mistake would not only be a disappointment to the families and friends of those who lost someone to AIDS, but the individual who’s quilt is being displayed too.
After reading and analyzing the images featured in Alan Taylor’s piece 50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1968, I stepped back with a sense of sudden enlightenment. I already had an understanding of world history during the 1960’s prior to reading this article. Due to this, I assumed I would only be seeing events that I already had knowledge of.
Oh, how wrong I turned out to be.
Not only did Taylor’s article cover the major events most Americans think of when one mentions the 60’s (How could we forget about the Vietnam War or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination?), but he also mentioned events that we have either forgotten about or worse– never even heard of.
For instance, I was totally unaware of the protests that took place in Paris and Rio de Janiro. Seeing the images of college students being chased by police officers– who were mounted on horses and attacking them, reminded me of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
It is important to note that the Tiananmen Square Massacre did not take place until decades after the protests mentioned in the article. This is because these events show a pattern. Better yet, they show how history repeats itself. Why were the students protesting in Paris and Rio de Janiro? Why were the students protesting in Tiananmen Square? Why are students protesting today?
Across every time period in human development, we can see how people (especially young adults) have unified for a common cause. Usually, we see working class and young people leading society towards progress through demonstrations that disrupt the existing oppressive institution.
I hope to be a part of one of these disruptions some day in my lifetime. Maybe in a few decades, someone will write a piece similar to Taylor’s and I will be able to point at myself in one of the images.