Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Statement on “The Magnificent Michelle Obama, Our First Lady: ‘Strength and Honor are Her Clothing’(Proverbs 31: 25)”

Title: “The Magnificent Michelle Obama, Our First Lady: ‘Strength and Honor are Her Clothing’(Proverbs 31: 25)”(Political Series)

Artist: Riché Richardson

Dimensions: Heart-shaped, 31”x31”

Professional photographs above (of quilt, of quilt and me) by Rachel Philipson

Materials: Hand-quilted, includes fabric, painting, and mixed-media such as a mirror and jewelry, and hair

In the weeks leading up to the Inauguration, and as I worked on a quilt of Barack Obama, I was also inspired to buy materials to make a Valentine-themed quilt of the new First Lady, and even bought the materials on Valentine's Day. My goal was to try to represent the beauty, warmth, intelligence, energy and spirit that she brings to the White House, and that so many others also see in her and deeply admire. I originally imagined it as a companion quilt for my quilt of Barack Obama, for truly, as much as she is ours, she is “Always First Lady” in his life. But this quilt has also taken on a life of its own. I thought it was funny that though I intended to use the Obama quilt as a reference point in making this one, I had to send that one to Washington and ended up making the one of her in my art studio without having the other one; this dynamic between the quilts reminds me of the busy lives the Obamas lived on the campaign, with him on the road and her doing special things on her own, sometimes holding down the home front. I was inspired on a trip to Washington to see all the pink paraphernalia around the city that said “First Lady” in honor of her, and so this quilt incorporates that trope. Also, I included the mirror as a concrete reminder that we are a reflection of her and that we are all connected. The outfit itself shows her in the classic and simple dress silhouette that she frequently wears and that has been controversial for some. The controversy is frustrating for me to see as a woman who is also tall and likes this style, and who understands that such styles are even more efficient for tall women to wear sometimes in a world that does not design sleeves for longer arms, a point about which some of her critics do not think. Such debates can distract us from the special qualities that she has on the inside, the inner qualities that the title emphasizes. It's red velvet and lavender as a reminder of these womanly and even royal qualities.

*Added in September, 2009 for the encore and most recent rotation of Roland Freeman's "Quilts for Obama" inauguration exhibition at the Historical Society of Washington, DC. This historic exibition has been a beautiful serenade to this history-making Presidency. As an artist, I am deeply honored to be a part of it.

*Quilt also draws on some of the techniques that were first established in my repertoire in both my Debutante and Education art quilt series, such as the use of jewelry, the use of satin fabrics(for the back), and the incorporation of architectural features so that quilts are literally built from the inside out with features such as "collarbones." The facial architecture was first attempted in the quilts of Simone de Beauvoir (which I am revising), my grandfather (Wedding series), and Obama (Political Series).

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