In the United States, one of the first jokes a child learns begins, What’s black and white and red all over? The answer is, of course, a newspaper. As a weaver of tapestries, I wanted to express the pun in visual terms, or, at least, to see what happened when I limited my palette to black, white and red.
The resulting series of tapestries calls attention to words, puns, clichés. In #17, for the masthead of the left-wing newspaper, WORKERS VANGUARD, red sewing thread plied with the white and black yarns gives a visual illusion of pink; pinko is a label with which the left is often tagged in the United States.
In other tapestries materials and techniques of weaving come into play. In #14 and #19, cotton makes one shape which gets embedded in a field of the same color in wool. White cotton is far whiter than white wool; bleaching would destroy the wool fibers. [In addition, the color of white wool varies enormously.] Further, wool and cotton reflect light differently, so shapes or words are both more and less visible than if the shapes were embedded in a contrasting color. In other tapestries the order of the words follows the sequence both of reading and of the weaving itself. Thus, words are, as in #4,The Radical Right, #13, Up and Down, even #26, the Hebrew words for left and right, symbolising the political parties of Labor and Likud, woven in the order in which they are read.
Many of the early pieces read like a line of type. Normally, tapestry weavers weave from left to right, or from bottom to top. In #9, as in some others, I take advantage of this order of weaving, weaving from the word bottom to the word top. Future pieces will incorporate large squares, rectangles, or perhaps organic shapes. Other pieces will incorporate symbols rather than words—like the outlines of hands and feet that follow the sequence of a cartwheel, or perhaps the police outline of a body on the street, with the red as blood.
Over the years of the work on this series, variations on the original question (What’s black and white and red all over?) have sprung up. The answers now include an embarrassed zebra, a bleeding skunk, or even a penguin with lipstick. Those punch lines might form the basis of a tapestry I haven’t yet woven.