The proverb goes, “you reap what you sow,” inferring that future consequences are shaped by present actions. This idea is much like the deplorable behavior we saw unfold on Jan. 6 at The Capitol in Washington D.C. and the subsequent trial currently underway. And it is that ideology—accountability, consequences, karma—that functions as the framework for Las Vegas-based artist Diane Bush’s newest political minded fiber arts project titled “They Reap While We Sew.”
The nationwide project was disseminated on social media earlier this summer and is grounded in advocating for free speech. Bush first announced the act of political satire to her “commune-knit-y” on June 5 when she put out a call to arms to her fellow fiber artists.
“My idea is to have knitters, crocheters, embroiderers, applique-ers, and other fiber artists from across the country CREATE small pieces WHILE WATCHING / LISTENING TO THE HEARINGS,” she wrote on Facebook in a group with the same name as the project. “The goal is to help HEAL the nation through accountability and civic participation. Basically, anything that is supportive of democracy and non-violence.”
She explained that participating artists are encouraged to let their fiber art imaginations free on pieces of fabric while viewing (or listening to or talking about) the Jan. 6 trials. “Those sounds should be coming into their ears while they work,” Bush said. The project, which on the surface is a creative outlet for participants, also takes on wider, systemic goals such as voter awareness and the promotion of free speech.
Bush calls Las Vegas home, but she grew up in Buffalo, New York, and this project—much like her past three political satire projects—spans the more than 2,000 miles between the two cities. In fact, an embroidered white tie reading “Sew Much to Expose” is part of an exhibit in Buffalo at an alternative art space called Hallwalls.
Additional finished pieces are displayed across this small-but-mighty project’s social media channels on Facebook and Instagram and have the potential to travel to advocacy events and protests in the future. Bush’s goal is to attach all submitted fiber art pieces to a silk rope that can then be transported around the country.
“They Reap While We Sew,” which will continue through the midterm elections in November, is Bush’s fourth politically charged public art project. Her first was “The Im-BLEACHment of George W. Bush,” a satire inspired by the 35 articles of impeachment presented to congress on June 9, 2008. “Members of the public were invited to throw small vials of bleach on a large photo of George W. Bush, to Im-BLEACH the president,” Bush says on her website.
Since 2008, other projects have included “Dishing it Out” in 2016 and “Make a Merkin Great Again” in 2019. The latter is a project that utilized handspun cat hair as genital wigs packaged in flag frames representing the 25 sexual harassment accusers Donald Trump has abused. The project has traveled as far as Bilbao, Spain.
To learn more about “They Reap While We Sew” you can contact Diane Bush via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the project’s Facebook page.
Photos: Courtesy Diane Bush