Woman's Work?: An Exhibition at Northeastern Illinois University Art Gallery

The innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care...
~William Shakespeare
Tomorrow is my visiting artist talk at Northeastern Illinois University Art Gallery from 3pm -4:30pm, followed by the closing reception the next day with another of the artists attending.  Anni Holm will be bringing her performance piece Networking, a gorgeous work that is part performance, part installation, and part community art.  The reception's hours are 6-9pm.  I hope you can make it to one of the events.  While you are on campus, check out the yarn bombing created by the students! 
It's been a pleasure to be in the show Woman's Work? and has me thinking in what direction my art knitting will turn.  More sculpture?  Community art like The Red Thread Project?  Street art / yarn bombing?  I don't actually know.  I guess you could say I'm in flux at the moment - or twisted in a tangle if you would prefer a yarn pun. *grin*
Heather Weber, NEIU's gallery director and curator, wrote a wonderful essay for the show .  As you many not have received one of the brochures, here is a copy:

The theme for this exhibition was taken from a series by Lindsay Obermeyer which, in turn, was inspired by a text entitled "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society" by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. (1) The title, Woman's Work?, in the context of art, brings to mind the traditional (acceptable) forms of artmaking by women such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery, etc. Endeavors such as these not only have had to overcome the stigma of "craft" but also their association with the feminine due to their ties to the home and to the family. Yet while our customary idea of family has changed and "sewing arts" have overcome their non-high art classification, there remains something inherently familial, homey often, about these particular art forms. The three artists chosen for this exhibition, Anni Holm, Mark Newport, and Lindsay Obermeyer, share both their process-knitting-as well as the use of knitting as a metaphor for our connection to one another.

PlastiCity by Anni Holm, 2010

Mark Newport knits several Costumes whose bright colors, often recognizable symbols, and shape are reminiscent of the super-masculine action heroes which picture largely in our childhood memories. The concept of action hero speaks to the traditional notion of husband and father as protector of the family.   Not only do Newport's Costumes remind us of heroes battling outside forces but also of our interior world, our home. When juxtaposed with the medium of knitting the Costumes conjure memories of the warmth and safety sought in our domestic environment through their allusion to cozy blankets and warm sweaters. Due to the lack of an actual body to fill these Costumes, when exhibited, they appear passive as they hang limply from the gallery wall. Thus Newport creates performances which "activate" the Costumes by showing himself in the process of making and wearing them.

Superheroes by Mark NewportThe connection of textiles to the traditional role of woman finds its strongest voice in the work of Lindsay Obermeyer. For Obermeyer's series entitled "Woman's Work" she addresses the relationship between mother and child. For example, in her piece Twirlers Obermeyer uses thread to create a sweater whose "breasts" extend and pool onto the gallery floor. The resulting image is one in which the viewer is invited to connect to the biological demands of motherhood as well as the reality of an unending bond/giving of parent to child. Twirlers also alludes to the demands upon one's time which can be problematic for an artist/parent. Historically, for women, a choice must be made between their artwork and their duties to their family. Obermeyer reconciles this dilemma by conflating the two.

  1. Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.

About  NEIU Art Gallery

The NEIU gallery is located at 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue in building E in the northwest area of the campus.  Parking is free in parking lot F the night of the reception only.  The Fine Arts Center Gallery is a visual exhibition space committed to showing innovative works of art in all media within a  pluralistic, culturally diverse setting.  Fall gallery hours are 10am-5pm Mon-Fri.  Please call 773-442-4944 or visit our website at www.neiu.edu/~gallery/ for more information.

Red Thread Dance of Hats Chicago - Let's Party!


"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break."  - Chinese proverb

The Red Thread Project® is a community art project I started 7.5 years ago as a double dare from curator Kaz McCue.  Little did I know that the simple dare would blossom into something so large.  The Red Thread Project® celebrates community connections, both visible and invisible, while encouraging and fostering individual creativity. The hats on display exhibited the creative efforts of hundreds of youths and adults from across Chicago (and as far as Belgium) who’ve been knitting and crocheting hats since late September.


On December 3rd we partied!  300+ hats were attached to one very long read "thread."  We had so many hats that we didn't have enough room to lay them all out!  People of all ages and all parts of Chicago came to celebrate, showing their community spirit, and let's face it to get down and boogey. The event was at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of "What's Your Art: Celebrating the Art Centers of Chicago" presented by Chicago Public Media, Sixty Inches from Center, TimeOut Chicago and Intellegentsia.


We had a last minute change of music with the EE Marching Band providing a fantastic  New Orleans jazz sound.  Meida McNeal and Felicia Holman got us line dancing and Sara Convery photographed the event.  Mary Lawrie rearranged her work schedule to help with all the last minute attaching and assist with the installation.  Bless you lady, the show would not have gone on without you! 







All hats contributed will be donated to local charities including those assisting cancer patients, foster children, the elderly and the homeless.  Since its inception in 2004, over 6,000 hats have been donated to charities in Terre Haute, IN, Memphis, TN, Grand Rapids, MI, Sugar Grove, IL and St. Louis, MO.

The Red Thread Project® was a featured program of Chicago Artists Month 2011, the sixteenth annual celebration of Chicago’s vibrant community presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

Thank you to the following organizations for hosting Red Thread Stitching Studios:

  • Borderbend Arts Collective
  • Claretian Associates / South Chicago Arts Festival
  • Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse
  • Knit 1
  • Loopy Yarns
  • Newberry Libary
  • North Branch Projects
  • Rogers Park Business Alliance
  • Sifu Design Studio
  • Southside Hub of Productions
  • The Art Center of Highland Park
  • The Emanuel Congregation Sewing Ladies
  • The Knitting Pub Crawl (6 Rogers Park bars)

And a special thank you to these great folks who helped make the day happen!

Andrew Altman (webmaster), Nicolette Caldwell (Sixty Inches from Center), Georgia Chilton (media organizer), Sara Convery (photographer), Penelope Dullaghan (illustrator), Felicia Holman (choreographer), Tempestt Hazel (Sixty Inches from Center), Mary Lawrie (intern), Meida McNeal (choreographer), Corinne Peterson (sculptor and knitting circle maker), Breeze Richardson (Chicago Public Media).

So what's next?  I've had offers to bring the project to more cities, but it's time for new adventures. I will soon be archiving the project which will become part of the Women and Leadership Archives at Loyola University.  If you have a photo or a story you want to be sure is added, just let me know.

thinking about art in public spaces

Watch Off Book: Street Art on PBS. See more from PBS.


 What is the next step?  What comes after The Red Thread Project®?  I love the work featured in this video.  It raises the questions of public aesthetic.  Individual vs. Mass.  Engagement.  Scale. Unlike The Red Thread Project® this is art made by an individual for a community rather than with a community, but I find parallels.

What I enjoy with The Red Thread Project® is the lack of control.  I set certain perameters - knit or crocheted hats attached by a long red knit thread - but I have no sense of scale, involvement or even overall color as that is completely determined by those who contribute.  I also like that the work goes back out into the public, consumed by others rather being stored in my studio until the next exhibition.  Through the project I also share a basic skill providing others with what can become endless hours of enjoyment for them too.  That aspect of sharing, a skill, stories, a bond, is what makes the work meaningful to me.

The Red Thread Project® flowed from The Attachment Project which visualized the emotional connections between two people.  I took that simple idea keyed it up a notch to highlight the visible and invisible connections between us all.  But now what?  Am I done?  

In every series of works I create, there comes a point when I  have said all I need to say.  Am I there again?  Still thinking.   

Ladies Ring Shout: Part 1, the video


I'm so proud to have been a part of this production.   A big thank you to Felicia Holman, Abra Johnson and Meida McNeal for inviting me to work on costumes.  David Weathersby has done an amazing job of capturing the beauty and intensity of their performance.  The above features Breathe/Cry and The Question Still Remains (An Ode to Sojourner Truth).

Set design was by Jeanne Medina and Chris Nightengale.  

Costumes, The Ladies Ring Shout

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer,  The Ladies Ring Shout, costumes
"Every dance is a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart." — Martha Graham

Getting ready for showtime! The world premiere of The Ladies Ring Shout is in just two days. Anticipation is already building within the local dance and theater community.  Whoop!  Whoop!  

Designing costumes for dance has some particular concerns.  The garments need to be graceful yet allow for athletic movement, be weighted appropriately for proper movement definition, designed for quick changes and easy to wash.  Above all, they need to empower the dancers.

The ladies look fantastic as they gave the costumes their first trial run last weekend.

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer, The Ladies Ring Shout, costumes

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer The Ladies Ring Shout

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer, The Ladies Ring Shout, costumes

Costuming, Ladies Ring Shout

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer threads
"You can dance anywhere, even if only in your heart."  --  Author Unknown

It's been 17 years since I last worked on costumes for a theater or dance production.  I've never been the actual designer, just the maker.  This time I have the opportunity to be both.  I'm designing and making costumes for the amazing  Felicia Holman, Abra Johnson & Meida McNeal and their world premiere of Ladies Ring Shout, running August 4-6 at Defibrillator, 1136 N. Milwaukee in Chicago.

©2011 Ladies Ring Shout

Critics are raving about their recent performance of "A Suspect Politic," a sketch from Ladies Ring Shout at Collaboraction's Sketchbook XI Festival: Evolution.  Timeout and  the Chicago Tribune are just two of numerous local journals shining the light.

And of course, I'm freaking out.  I want these costumes to be perfect.  Their performance is so funny, poignant, and thought provoking that not one stitch may be allowed to detract.

My inspiration is the work of Natalie Chainin and her company Alabama Chainin.  I love her emphasis on the hand stitch and her early use of recycled t-shirts.  Though I'm machine stitching the seams, all embellishment is being done by hand.  Appliqué motifs are based on the textile traditions of the Kuba people, in particular the squares woven of raffia commonly known as Kuba cloth.  

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Ladies Ring Shout t-shirt applique
With each costume taking approximate 16 hours to complete, I am grateful for the assistance of  Jeanne Medina, the production's co-set designer and one of my former students.  ***Hum "It's a Small World."***  

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Jeanne working on Ladies Ring Shout

Our long Saturday work sessions have been a gratifying fringe benefit.   She's inspired me to reconsider options I had long ago considered impossible, once again proving that the teacher often learns more from the student than the student possibly learns from the teacher.  

The Red Thread Project: St. Louis 2011



"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live."   -- George Bernard Shaw

I'm short on words today.  I'm still processing the joy brought from working last week with 400+ children, two choreographers and one samba band on The Red Thread Project®'s Dance of Hats.  As both a teacher and an artist, it is gratifying to know that the message you've shared has been received, understood and made their own.  Plus, who can resist watching them have such a great time.?!  A small idea that started 7 years ago has blossomed into something much larger than I ever imagined.

I hope you enjoy this short video made by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Johnny Andrews.


 All the hats were made by the children and will be donated to local St. Louis charities.  A HUGE thank you to the folks at Springboard and Laumeier Sculpture Park for their involvement.  

The Red Thread Project® - St. Louis Dance of Hats 2011

The Red Thread Project® St. Louis 2011 front

The Dance of Hats for The Red Thread Project® will next be taking place in St. Louis, MO at Laumeier Sculpture Park.  Imagine 400+ children and adults connected at the head, dancing to samba music.  I can't wait!  If you are in the St. Louis area, please join the fun.  The dance /  performance art will run from noon to 1pm.  

To learn more about my community-based project, take a look at the project's website.

A special thank you to this year's St. Louis sponsors of the project - Springboard, Laumeier Sculpture Park and the Missouri Arts Council.

The Red Thread Project ® 2011 Back of postcard 2011

The Cornettes

  © 2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes

Ladies and Gentlemen!  I bring you The Cornettes and Paul E. Nator!  

Aw shucks!  Thank you! Thank you!  

Yes, yesterday I made my debut as one of The Cornettes. My facial muscles had a serious workout from all the smiling and laughing.  

  © 2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes 

Advocates for urban agriculture, The Cornettes were started several years ago by the illustrious Cathi Bouzide.    

  ©2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes 

We sang songs.  

Let us grow some sweetcorn

As The Cornettes say

In your urban backyard

We'll show you the way!

Keep your hens a laying...

Fresh eggs every day

You'll be happy and healthy in every way!  

(Sung to the tune of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart")

   ©2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes 

We showed people the way to the corn maze.

 ©2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes  

Told jokes, corny ones of course.

So how do you fix a broken tomato?

With tomato paste!

©2010 Cathi Bouzide The Cornettes
And even had a juggling act!  Mr. Paul E. Nator (pollinator!) was aMAIZEing.  

The event was part of Great Performers of Illinois which celebrated all things Illinois, including corn.   

Photo credits: Cathi Bouzide.  Thanks Cathi!

The Red Thread Project® St. Louis - a few pics

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer a hat

"The art of a people is a true mirror to their minds." -- Jawaharlal Nehru

St. Louis.  440 handmade hats of which over half were made by children.  442 yards of red "thread" = 1/4 of a mile.  Scores of volunteers.  72 participants in the "Dance of Hats."  One incredible installation.  Smile.

©2009 Chris Motley sewing on the hats

Sewing on the hats.

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer sewing on hats

The piles build up.

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer a few hats

The "Dance of Hats" complete with music from Samba Bom.

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer cutie pie

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer dancing

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer the groove

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer dance dance dance

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer wave your hands in the air

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer waving

And the installation....

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer the wires

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer the wonder women installing

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer the installation

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer looking up

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer the many hats