Love and Information*

*“We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by Love and Information. ... Let us then try what Lovewill do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first, wins the Lawrel.” – By William Penn from “The Fruits of Solitude”  being the second part of Reflections and Maxims Relating to the conduct of human life, Published 1682

Megan Whitmarsh

A few months ago an old friend of my mom’s named Paquetta Palmer was in Los Angeles for a visit and I saw her. She gave me a folder of newspaper clippings from the 1980s that featured her and my mom. She and my mom were part of a group of women that started a women’s peace camp in Ann Arbor.

My mom also did civil disobedience and got arrested a couple times for physically blocking a driveway to a plant that made engines for cruise missiles and there were some articles about that too. My mom and my stepdad were part of a group of protestors who got arrested together. The second time my mom got arrested she was put in jail.

The judge was angry that the protestors had broken a 6 month injunction he had set againstprotesting at the plant the last time they had been arrested and he jailed them for contempt of court. She was in jail for over a month. My stepdad got released earlier because the men’s jail had a policy to release as many non-violent offenders as possible for Christmas. She lost her job as a nurse at the University of Michigan hospital. The nurses and hospital staff protested and after a review she got her job back. Paquetta was [a member of the] staff at the hospital. My parents had joint custody of my brothers and me and lived in different states. We lost the chance to see her over the winter break. We couldn’t even call her, we could only write letters.

I started having apocalyptic dreams about once a year starting in the late 1990s.

As a kid I was pretty afraid of nuclear war - probably in part because of my mom’s activism- I was super aware of the cold war. I started using these dreams in my artwork and when my Mom saw my series of embroidered dreams she told me that the reason she had decided to get arrested long ago was because she had a dream that there was a nuclear war and she was holding my little brother and he was dying and she couldn’t save him. It haunted her and gave her a sense of urgency that she must take action.

When I got the newspaper clippings I read them over with a mixture of sadness, nostalgia and surprise. I had only ever seen the one that had a picture of me with my mom and brothers in it and I remember feeling both proud to be in the newspaper and kind of disappointed that the headline was “Children get experience of having parents jailed as Christmas gift”. I didn’t feel like showing that to my classmates in middle school where I was the new kid and didn’t have any friends. I was doubtful it would win anyone over.

And it was strange to see the germination of themes that are still relevant to my work today. I was quoted in one article talking about how upset I was after seeing The Day After. I was disgusted by the military and felt that our society needed to change its priorities (hey I still feel that way!) and I told my mom I thought her actions were going to help make things better.

I was also excited to get these clippings because I like to make newspapers. I started making newspapers for a few reasons: I wanted to give them away for free, I wanted to work with text and image, and I wanted to put the work into an alive context- something that you could take in and then let go of.  I make two kinds of newspapers- one is a series of oversize newspapers made out of fabric that can be ‘read’ communally in exhibitions. And then in addition I make free newsprint editions that viewers can take home and read at their leisure and then recycle or line their catbox with or whatever. These printed editions utilise the same handmade fabric fonts and collaged fabric ‘photos’ as the oversize ones, so they are made out of fabric too (in their original form). Art means ‘to fit together’. Making art for me feels a bit like puzzling things together and I started making ‘newspapers’ as a very simple way to expose the structure of this puzzling and to be able to fit together the elements I was trying to connect.

Seeing these old newspaper articles and finding the connections to my work today was comforting somehow in exactly the way I wanted my newspapers to be. A sort of reminder that life is cyclical, that it goes on and on and themes are repeated. That we are both heroic and special and unique in our tiny moments while also being constantly washed over eroded and erased by the new. The newspaper is immediately out of date and yet you can find echoes and resonances in newspapers from any time and any place. There is something beautiful and affirming and sorrowful in this. Like little ants working away we collectively write, record and process all the bits and corners of our lives. And the very next day we start again!