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State Historical Society of Iowa

Ames Artist Has Time, People Magazines in Stitches

Jan 24, 2018

DES MOINES -- In the hands of Jennifer Drinkwater, the gung-ho world of magazine publishing is no match for a needle and thread.

Several years ago, the Ames artist started to embroider covers of Time and People in cross-stitch, a slow, meditative process that re-interprets the glossy melodrama of each magazine in a softer medium. The process creates several interesting parallels between form and content as stitches replace pixels, revealing each cover's slick compositions as elaborate constructions.

"I began creating an embroidered archive of Time and People in 2013," she explained in a written statement. "The selections are not edited or chosen according to content. They are cycled every two months (and) issues released on the same day are juxtaposed, which creates a broader documentation of our culture and invites viewers to formulate their own perceptions."

Viewers can see her collection of cross-stitched magazine covers Feb. 1 through April 30 in "Art at the Cafe: 168 Hours by Jennifer Drinkwater" at Cafe Baratta's in the State Historical Museum of Iowa. An opening reception featuring music by Chad Elliott and beer samples from Peace Tree Brewing will be held 5-7 p.m. Feb. 2.

Drinkwater's collection consists of 24 individually framed cross-stitched images, each a life-size replica of a magazine cover of Time and People. The individual pieces are displayed in pairs according to the date the magazine issues were released, which is included in the title of each work of art.

The time she spent cross-stitching each cover -- about 168 hours -- coincides with the time each magazine spent on the newsstand.

"I learned to cross-stitch from both of my grandmothers, and I inherited each of their collections of thread when arthritis prohibited them from making any more work," she said. "No one else in my family is a visual artist, so there’s something sentimental and nostalgic about connecting with my people. And it’s sure nice to be able to bring work anywhere."

A native of Mississippi, Drinkwater is an assistant professor at Iowa State University and one of five new additions to Iowa Arts Council's Artist Fellowship Program. In addition to working in cross-stitch, her paintings have been exhibited nationally and featured in New American Paintings and Studio Visit magazines.

During the past few years, she has partnered with communities in Iowa and Mississippi in various art projects and theater productions. She helped organize a community-wide steamroll printmaking event in Perry, Iowa, created installations in restored prairies in Nebraska, collaborated on public art projects in vacant sites on Iowa main streets, spearheaded a community knit-bombing project and painted two murals with middle-school children on a juke joint in the Mississippi Delta.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.