The Election Gloves

Artist Questionnaire
Many of the artists included in Locally Made responded to a series of questions about their materials and process. A selected response follows.

Title: The Election Gloves

Media: Gloves: rubber (dishwashing gloves), ink (Sharpie pen, markers, mechanical drawing ink), cotton embroidery thread. Flag: cotton, cotton embroidery thread. Wooden shelf.

Location of residence: Cranston, Rhode Island

Location of work (studio/office): Cranston, RI

Process (describe as fully as possible): I’d recently finished other projects using rubber gloves, so I knew Sharpie markers and Stop & Shop dishwashing gloves worked the best. The first time I used gloves as the central medium was the Ulysses Glove Project, for which I copied the entirety of James Joyce’s Ulysses onto 310 rubber gloves. The next was called The Abu Dhabi Gloves, which, like The Election Gloves, uses just four pair, my own words, and some drawing.

For The Election Gloves, I wanted the decorative elements to support the concept, which describes the impact of national events set next to my own quiet domestic life.

To create this work I wrote about election news almost every day for around a year. I also kept a diary of what was happening or not happening in my own life. I kept track of trivial chores, like housework and laundry, as well as noting more important personal landmarks, such as getting a residency and finding out a close relative had terminal cancer.

After the election, I began to distill the major and minor events of the months leading up to November 6, 2012 (Election Day), so that I could tell a cohesive story. It was extremely challenging to edit a year’s worth of news onto a few hand-sized gloves. I kept writing and rewriting until the writing felt like my voice.

When I finished writing, I tackled the finger decorations. I tried everything from drawing stars and stripes to making geometric designs using red white and blue until at last I chose flowers as my motif. I used up at least four boxes of gloves trying different ideas. Once I decided to use the flower motif, I drew freehand. For the embroidery, I drew a flower first that I covered with thread. The flag is a bandana I bought at an Army & Navy store on Thayer Street, in Providence, RI. I included it to have one part of this piece that is permanent. The gloves, like us, are doomed to dust. But the embroidered flag will last through the ages.

The Ulysses Glove Project was a nod to my dad, who loved Ulysses above all other novels. The Election Gloves are a nod to my mother, who politicizes everything from housework to waiting for the electrician, but also instilled in me a love of textiles, especially flowers. She felt there was not a dress, couch, or carpet which could not be better if only it were embellished with flowers. Though all presidential elections are important, I think as I age each one seems more significant, and carries greater weight in my mind. You would think that worrying about who is going to lead our country would make all other concerns vanish or at least fade to a pale grey. But, for me, a huge crisis only piles on top of all my other worries. I find myself anxious about cleaning my home AND what happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned. One thing does not push away another thing. It just goes on top of the worry pile.

I had wished that when this election was over, and especially if things went as I had hoped (they did), there would be a honeymoon phase. Sadly, this was not the case. The gloves tell little of the events post election. We had the fiscal cliff, the debt crisis, and eventually a battle about gun control.

It seems to me that the United States is a reflection of a world at sea. The storm always seems to be brewing, with no calm afterwards. One big story falls to a lower tier after being pushed aside by another, but it seems these stories are never resolved. There is not a tidy ending. In my own life, there is a parallel play of events, signs of progress but also a lot of uncertainty and setbacks. Sometimes the world news takes up a greater space, especially for something like an election. However, an aging parent and a dying friend feel just as important even though the people they affect are part of a smaller circle.

In a few instances you can see the under drawing of a flower beneath the threads, because my stitches did not completely hide the ink marks. It is like a scar, reminding us of wounds that go deep. I hoped to show that we are all a part of history, in big and small ways, even if we are low down on the worry pile of other people’s minds.