There’s little written about the St. Joseph Embroidery, which hangs in the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Missouri.
I explore this textile through the lenses of experimental disability poetics and feminist disability rhetoric.
My multidisciplinary, multimedia project includes a series of creative texts, critical texts, experiential learning engagements, and hand-embroidered textiles.
Do we have to “make sense” of the texts we read?
What might it look like to do interpretive work outside of a sense-making paradigm?
These questions lie at the heart of my project, which uses the St. Joseph Embroidery as an example of language that can draw our attention to how and why we “make sense” (when we read, write, make art, and communicate with one another).
“Poetic” not “psychotic.”
Drawing on experimental disability poetics and feminist disability rhetoric, I’m exploring how the St. Joseph Embroidery can:
1) Help us better recognize our own interpretive frameworks, especially those founded on ableist textual assumptions;
2) Acknowledge and challenge our complicity in the construction and maintenance of such frameworks;
3) And reconsider what textual innovation might mean outside of a sense-making paradigm.
Re-reading the embroidery as “poetic,” rather than pathologizing it as “psychotic,” can be one way to fight stigmatizing rhetoric.
Stitching into the St. Joseph Embroidery.
To get a more embodied sense of this textile, part of my projects involves hand-embroidering its language—in the embroider’s original “handwriting”—onto cloths made by women in my own family.
I’ve also invited students, faculty, and community members to create “found poems” out of the textile’s language. Having transcribed it’s language onto dropcloth cutouts, I asked everyone to take a handful of fabric and craft the words into their own texts.
Each of their poems now constitutes a small iteration and re-embodiment of the St. Jospeh Embroidery itself.