Monday, May 8, 2017

“Poisonous Words”

“Poisonous Words”
by Susan Brubaker Knapp, copyright 2017 (34.5" x 23.5")
Wholecloth painted, free-motion quilted. White cotton fabric, acrylic textile paint and ink, wool batting, cotton thread, commercial cotton fabric (backing)

“Poisonous Words” is my entry for the “Threads of Resistance” exhibition, which will premiere at the New England Quilt Museum July 11, 2017, and then travel to 11 other venues, including museums and quilt shows. I am one of ten artists organizing this exhibition. 

It is based on a sketch I made during the campaign, and features a painted and thread sketched portrait of Donald Trump with a copperhead snake going in his ear and out his mouth. He is surrounded by a cloud of his own poisonous words. 

I hated making this quilt. I hated it that I felt I had to make it. Working on this piece – seeing these words and hearing Trump’s voice saying them — made me physically nauseated.

“When someone shows you who they are,
believe them the first time.” 
– Maya Angelou

I was greatly disturbed by things Donald Trump said during the presidential campaign, and by the words he used. It was amazing how many women I know who were horrified to hear people using the word “pussy” or talking about pussyhats, but who brushed off Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comment as “boys will be boys” or “locker room talk.” So much of what came out of his mouth were racist, misogynistic and xenophobic insults. 

For our democracy to succeed, and for us to solve vital problems our country faces, we must be able to discuss important issues with civility and respect, to listen to others’ views without insulting, even if we completely disagree. Finding common ground – even a small patch of it – is impossible without this. If these kinds of comments are considered acceptable for our president to say and tweet, then they become acceptable for others. They are a poison that infects us all. 

I believe that the rise in hate crimes, as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations, is a direct result. Words have power. Words often lead to actions. The poison is spreading. 

All of the words in this piece are those of Donald Trump:

Nov. 13, 2015, campaign speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa: Trump said he wouldn’t reveal his secret plan to destroy ISIS, but “I would bomb the shit out of them. I’d just bomb those suckers. I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch — there would be nothing left.”

July 13, 2016, on Twitter: “Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot - resign!”

Trump called Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996 “Miss Piggy,” because she gained weight after the competition. He also called her “Miss Housekeeper,” and “Miss Housekeeping,” apparently because she is Latina. “She was like an eating machine,” Trump told Howard Stern in a radio interview in February 1997.

Presidential announcement speech, June 16, 2015: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In 2005, Donald Trump made the following comments in an interview with Billy Bush for the TV show Access Hollywood: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything. …I moved on her and I failed, I'll admit it," Trump can be heard saying in the video. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

In 2011, attorney Elizabeth Beck told CNN that she was representing clients who were trying to get their condominium deposits back from Trump after a failed real estate venture in 2011. She said that she had been taking a deposition from Trump when she asked for a break to pump breast milk. “He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You're disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there.”
Feb. 11, 2016, at a rally in New Hampshire, Donald Trump told voters to reject local companies who move business overseas: “You can tell them to go fuck themselves.” (He mouthed the word, but didn’t say it out loud.) 
Oct. 19, 2016, at the final presidential debate, Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton was “such a nasty woman” while she was answering a question about how she would raise taxes on the rich to tackle debt and entitlements if she were to become president.
August 2016: After a presidential debate moderated by Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly, Trump said she “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Dec. 7, 2015, statement on Muslim immigration: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” 
After Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said Trump had short, stubby fingers in the 1980s, Trump has repeatedly responded, sending him photos of his hands. In a 2011 New York Post article he said, “'My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”

Premiere dates: July 11 - September 9, 2017
New England Quilt Museum
18 Shattuck Street, Lowell, MA 01852
    Opening reception: July 15, 2017 at 11 a.m. 
Santa Clara, CA

November 9-11, 2017  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Minneapolis, MN  

December 9, 2017 - February 18, 2018
Fuller Craft Museum
Brockton, MA

Reception: Jan. 21 

March 8-10, 2018  

March 15-17, 2018  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Lakeland, FL

April 5-7, 2018  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Cleveland, OH  

June 4-9, 2018  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Arlington, VA

July 18-20, 2018  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Raleigh, NC

August 3-24, 2018
Experience Fiber Art

The Wilder Building
Rochester, NY
Oaks, PA

October 4-6, 2018  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo
Fredericksburg, VA


  1. I'm so glad you made this although I hate that this nightmare has turned into reality. It's still so hard to believe he was elected. And even harder to believe that his supporters don't care what he says or does as long as he's not black or female. But...we can't give up and just maybe these works will make someone think!

  2. Wow, Susan! You went there. I totally understand your disgust with making this, but it needed to be done. So proud of you.

  3. Very powerful quilt, very powerful words. You did not hold back! As some of us have. You're an inspiration.

  4. Thank you for speaking the truth, even though it was hard. We all need to resist, to stand up for our rights.

  5. Wonderful and thank you. Inspiring.

  6. A perfect example of art imitating life. For anyone offended by this, they should remember the words came directly from him.

  7. I have to say it is nauseating and wonderful at the same time though the nauseating part are his words written for all to see...not your work. Good for you for making it through what must have been a very difficult project. What makes it wonderful is your voice which comes through without any words. Thank you. I will be sure to see it either in Atlanta or Raleigh!

  8. Very powerful quilt. Thank you for making it.

  9. It made me sick to hear them, it makes me sick to read them, and its really hard to look at them in even a wonderful and thoughtfully created art piece like this. But they were said, he did mean them, and this piece is still phenomenal.

  10. Bless you, Susan. For your courage, honesty, and integrity. You used his words in an eloquent manner while his use of them was/is vile.

    Maggie Hawk

  11. Yes, Thank You for putting into your quilt art words that wound and suppress
    and making a venue for healing.

  12. I am a quilter and love the projects I quilt. I don't understand why you would make a quilt that is so distasteful. I respect your right to make whatever you want to make, but I don't understand the why of it, so I hope you can help me understand. Thanks.

    1. My post outlines the reasons I made this art quilt. It is a distasteful piece because Trump's words are distasteful. If people are offended by it, they should be equally offended by his words.

  13. Susan, I applaud your powerful piece. Thank you for graphically expressing what I have yet to fully process.

  14. Thank you for your passion and conviction. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to work on this. Your statement is so powerful and I applaud you for taking a stand. You go girl.

  15. As you said, we should be offended because they are his words. I cringe whenever I think about him being the public face of our country. We need to throw his disgusting words back in his face. Thank you for having the courage to make this. I volunteer at the New England Quilt Museum and cannot wait to see this and all the other quilts in this exhibition in person!


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