TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT October 2017

TOP TEN

Sarah Zapata

Sarah Zapata makes work using time-consuming and labor-intensive processes such as handweaving, rope coiling, latch-hooking, and sewing to produce large-scale works that explore the feminine, the fetishized, and the handmade. Since August, she’s been working on an interactive installation at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York as part of the exhibition series “Studio Views: Craft in the Expanded Field,” on view through October 15.

  1. THE GREAT CLOTH

    The Great Cloth was discovered buried at Cahuachi, a Nazcan ceremonial center in southern Peru. At twenty-three feet wide and almost two hundred feet long, it is one of the largest handwoven cloths in the Western Hemisphere. The textile’s function is unknown—rugs did not come into use in this area until after Spanish colonization—although it’s made of the same type of cloth that was used by the Paracas culture to wrap mummy bundles. The edges of the fabric were destroyed during excavation, and it’s impossible to determine what type of loom was used by studying the weave patterns alone—showing how little we know about pre-Columbian technology, but also how truly advanced this technology must have been. What’s more, due to its size, the cloth testifies to how the women in the community worked together to achieve a singular goal.

    Excavation of the Great Cloth, Nazca Valley, Peru, 1952. Excavation of the Great Cloth, Nazca Valley, Peru, 1952.
  2. JOHN ADAMS, THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER (1991)

    Having access to the opera is one of my favorite aspects of living in New York, though I try to steer clear of spaghetti-and-meatball performances and seek out the more unconventional productions. This Adams opera has been ingrained in my mind since I attended the closing performance of its run at Lincoln Center in 2014. Based on true events, it depicts the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled Jew who was the lone individual killed on a cruise liner hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front off the Egyptian coast in 1985. There had been protesters outside the Metropolitan Opera on opening night, and a simulcast of the production had been canceled over allegations that the opera glorifies terrorism and anti-Semitism. But the piece left me weeping over its portrayal of trauma through a beautiful, complicated score.

  3. DIANE TORR AND STEPHEN BOTTOMS, SEX, DRAG, AND MALE ROLES: INVESTIGATING GENDER AS PERFORMANCE (2010)

    This book by Torr (1948–2017)—who began as a classical dancer and went on to bring go-go dancing to New York’s art and Women’s One World communities—is part memoir, part history of drag kings. Supplemented by the critical reflections of theater historian Stephen Bottoms (which would be an incredible drag name), the volume presents a thorough historical account of women performing as men, and of how Torr ultimately arrived at her “Man for a Day” workshops after a long career of examining the potency of female sexual expression.

    Katarina Peters, Man for a Day, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 96 minutes. Diane Torr. Katarina Peters, Man for a Day, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 96 minutes. Diane Torr.
  4. THE PEARL: EROTICA FROM THE UNDERGROUND MAGAZINE OF VICTORIAN ENGLAND (1968)

    I love erotica. This is a collection of underground porn that was published in London between 1879 and 1880. The limericks, narratives, and poems illustrate the diversity of tastes and preferences during this time, which could be startlingly obscene: Erotic scenarios included bestiality, incest, and necrophilia—disproving Steven Marcus’s theory that the Victorians created a “pornotopia” wherein external reality and its problems were swept away in the tide of sex.

    Page from The Pearl: A Monthly Journal of Facetiae and Voluptuous Reading (Augustin Brancart, ca. 1890). Page from The Pearl: A Monthly Journal of Facetiae and Voluptuous Reading (Augustin Brancart, ca. 1890).
  5. JUNIUS BIRD, PARACAS FABRICS AND NAZCA NEEDLEWORK: 3RD CENTURY B.C.–3RD CENTURY A.D. (1954)

    I found this book at the New York Public Library, which has a multitude of texts on pre-Columbian civilizations in its collection. Bird was an archaeologist who was said to have inspired Indiana Jones. The volume presents many color images and itemized accounts of textiles Bird encountered in southern Peru. The fabrics of the Paracas and Nazca civilizations abound with engaging content and complex construction. Bird is a thorough documentarian, and this book provides visual evidence of just how contemporary these pieces are.

    Page detail from Junius Bird’s Paracas Fabrics and Nazca Needlework: 3rd Century B.C.– 3rd Century A.D. (National Publishing Company, 1954). Detail of Paracas Necropolis mantel skirt, 800 BCE–100 BCE. Page detail from Junius Bird’s Paracas Fabrics and Nazca Needlework: 3rd Century B.C.– 3rd Century A.D. (National Publishing Company, 1954). Detail of Paracas Necropolis mantel skirt, 800 BCE–100 BCE.
  6. KENT MONKMAN

    This past February I traveled to Toronto to give a talk at the Textile Museum of Canada. While there, I was able to visit Kent Monkman’s exhibition “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience” at the University of Toronto. The First Nations artist developed a drag alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle—a “Hollywood Indian stereotype” turned on its head—who featured in his paintings, videos, and performances during a time when the Canadian government was aggressively disenfranchising indigenous people. Incorporating artifacts of native cultures from the university’s collection, the works on display demonstrated a tangible relationship between the past and present, and showed how the artist’s community is still impacted by colonialism. I’m always thinking about my own relationship to tradition, as I live a rather untraditional life, and it was illuminating to see how Monkman, who is of Cree and Irish descent, deals with his mixed ancestry.

    Kent Monkman, The Scream, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 7 × 11'. Kent Monkman, The Scream, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 7 × 11'.
  7. SARAH KERNOCHAN AND HOWARD SMITH, MARJOE (1972)

    I was raised in a devout Southern Baptist household, so this documentary on evangelical preacher Marjoe Gortner—whose name is a hybrid of Mary and Joseph—really resonated with me in its portrayal of the performative nature of Christianity in the southern US. Gortner began delivering sermons as a child, which turned out to be a lucrative spectacle until his persona outgrew its uniqueness. He left the church as a teenager, but returned in his late twenties because he needed the cash. Plagued by his conscience, he reveals his double life and moneymaking tactics when he allows the filmmakers to follow his final tour of revivals through the Bible Belt.

    Marjoe Gortner at age four, Long Beach, CA, 1949. Photo: Peter Stackpole/Getty Images. Marjoe Gortner at age four, Long Beach, CA, 1949. Photo: Peter Stackpole/Getty Images.
  8. WILLIAM A. ROSSI, THE SEX LIFE OF THE FOOT AND SHOE (1976)

    A pseudoanthropological study by podiatrist and leading footwear historian William Rossi, this book takes the reader on a journey of how the foot and shoe have been instrumental in sex acts and culture. Apparently we humans, as the only full-time bipedal organisms on the planet, are able to have sex the way we do largely thanks to our feet. My copy of the book has been particularly well-loved: It was once in the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection, and someone cut off the cover image of interlocking shoes.

  9. PARACAS MUMMY BUNDLES

    I’m interested in how textiles that aren’t garments can be activated by the body. One example is the handwoven cloth used by the Paracas civilization to bury their dead in a sort of fabric womb. The mummy, bent in the fetal position to indicate that it entered and left the world in the same manner, was placed in a large basket that was then wrapped over and over with these intricately patterned textiles.

    Adorned mummy, Paracas culture, Peru, ca. 200 BCE. Photo: Gianni Dagli Orti/REX/Shutterstock. Adorned mummy, Paracas culture, Peru, ca. 200 BCE. Photo: Gianni Dagli Orti/REX/Shutterstock.
  10. AUNQUE

    Meaning “although”—my favorite term in both Spanish and English. It’s a beautiful word that encourages positive, sensitive contradiction.