ink and watercolor on paper, 2010,
8 1/2” x 11”
This project was commissioned by A Public Space literary magazine and the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the Between the Line culture series.
Mrs. Julia Grant's opera shawl, according to entries in the Ulysses S. Grant Letters, was purchased in 1878 in Paris. This was after General Grant's presidency but before they set up housekeeping at number 3 East 66th Street in New York City. The shawl was part of the General Grant Archival Collection but not cataloged until after it arrived at its current home at Mississippi State University. This is ironic in light of Mr. Grant's military career. He basically stripped the state of Mississippi of all goods and food in order to suppress the Confederate rebels– but nobody talks about that there. The shawl was found by Dr. Marszalek's wife who helps out at the Collection. Dr. Marszalek is an authority on General Grant as well as General Sherman, yet he still lives in Mississippi- more irony I suppose.
The shawl is special and pricey– it is a black vest with extensive glass beading on the front and back. Evidently there were two, since Mrs. Grant bought one as a gift. The shawl is one of the only artifacts that is traceable to the Grant family in the Collection, the rest are knickknacks and ephemera commemorating Grant, but not the real thing. Mr. Semmes, the chief archivist, suspects that Julia really went on a buying spree in Paris after her visit with the Queen of England. It did not go well and she might have needed a little pick me up. She also went to the House of Worth for ball gowns; the Queen must have been quite rude.
“I had a splendid time shopping. Mr. Worth Personally directed the fitting of my costumes, and Madam Virot attended me in person for any millinery I wished, and there were no small attentions, I assure you.” -Julia Grant
The story also goes that General Grant adored Julia and gave her most of what she desired when the money allowed. Mrs. Grant adored the General.
On drawings: After proclaiming that I would never draw again since stitching was my way of drawing, I still felt the need to draw while doing historical research in order to find a physical way of documenting the information that I was processing. Therefore, I have developed a method of drawing either over historic photographs or images from my visits to historic places, which develops the story of the space on top of the original space. This method creates a density that implies an immersion in the story.