Past Present: DC
Washington DC: Primrose Press, 2012. Edition of 3.
Set of two books and two wall hangings. Two volumes (Past DC; Present DC): 9 x 17 x 1.75"; 22 pages, 20 pages. Text was printed with handset and polymer letterpress on handmade paper made of the artist's clothing and Rives paper. Typefaces employed included Archer, Century Schoolbook, Helvetica, Janson, Old Claude, Optima, and Univers. Poster TGothic and Devinne wood typefaces formerly of the Government Printing Office were also used. Laid in clamshell box covered in matching handmade paper with cloth spine. Two wall hangings: 30 x 132".
Tia Blassingame, Past DC Colophon: "Surveying historical segregation in the District of Columbia, Past Present: DC posits the idea that we are as segregated today as yesterday. We are separated by the same fears, hat, ignorance, and silence. As the nation's capital and as an American city, D.C. is layered with sites of humiliation, trauma, and racial violence that do not need to be within the city's physical borders to become part of the urban grid and \psyche. Conveyors of information, outrage, and sentiment within African American communities across the nation.
"In Past Present: DC, text from historic Jim Crow signs of the DC metro area and other American cities aware printed with handset wood and metal type. Text was position to allow the page to act as a reconstituted sign. Listings of area establishments that accepted African American customers came from mid-twentieth century issues of The Negro Motorists Green Book and Travelguide.
"The lyrics of popular American songs portray the journey of African American and white residents across the city where The Star-Spangled Banner seems symbolic of independence, songs of significance to the African American community and of prominence in the Civil Rights movement represent the African American citizen's restricted journey. From 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' by Wallis Willis to James Weldon Johnson's 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' to 'A Change is Gonna' Come' written by Sam Cooke, the songs change in step with the African American citizen's struggles for equity, enfranchisement, and recognition as an American and a human being' as the white citizen's position or primacy as an American has never been in doubt, the representative song 'The Star Spangled Banner' remains static."
Tia Blassingame, Present DC Colophon: "Text from popular bumper stickers, the news cycle, and contemporary political rhetoric replace historic Jim Crow era signs. Mirroring the rhetoric and prejudices of the past: African Americans as primates, promiscuous, and un-American, terms overrun the page and compete for attention, page spreads turn into billboards or monitors.
"A shift in residents' journeys presents as a reversal of lyric placement. While The Star Spangled Banner still represents the white resident, original text running fluidly across the book picks up where Negro spiritual and popular song lyrics left off in Past Present: DC."
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Slavery's Historic House Signs: in harvest II
By Tia Blassingame
[Providence, Rhode Island]]: Primrose Press, 2015. One-of-a-kind (Series variant).
5.5 x 31" scarf of organza. Screen printed.
Design Indaba Conference 2015, Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States: "When Tia Blassingame arrived in Rhode Island she began collecting autumn leaves and imaging the many slaves who might have seen the leaves from those same trees changing colour many years ago. Feeling moved by the thought that these leaves were perhaps not all she had in common with the slaves of early modern America, Blassingame began a project that would engage readers in a conversation about race through playing with their senses.
"Blassingame screen-printed receipts and accounts from slave ships onto the leaves.
“Brown inks that represented the colours of the autumn leaves and the skin colour of the slaves,” says Blassingame.
"She then made a golden headscarf that was printed with images of these leaves and words, to investigate how the wearer might carry herself, knowing that she was wearing words from a slave receipt."
Tia Blassingame: "Every city and history holds invisible populations. Walking past the historic homes along Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, one passes house markers that distinguish a population of white males and their achievements. The scarf-artists' book considers the African slaves that resided and worked in the homes of the Brown and Hopkins families. While their owners are remembered as the founders of Brown University, businessmen or as the state Governor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the slaves have been forgotten. This piece is part of a larger project, that began as a way of cataloguing names and facts as I conducted research on the role of Rhode Island in the Atlantic slave trade at the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University.
"Each fabric piece represents the content of an artists' book, a journey down a street and through history and family trees. How it is bound, covered, paced, draped is up to you, the reader/wearer. Also up to you is how, if at all the reader/viewers that you will encounter will be able access or read this artists' book that you activate by how you arrange and wear it."
For example, the notation Yarrow Brown House ¼ free represents Yarrow who was a slave owned by the four Brown Brothers of Rhode Island. When the brother Moses Brown freed his slaves Yarrow then was only a quarter free; that is, ¼ free or ¾ slave.
Link to video "Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States"
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