A few days ago I received an invitation from my professional organization, the American Institute of Graphic Artists to participate in an exhibit championing 100 years of the organization. One hundred designers were chosen to each create a piece of art for a particular year. I got 1940.I stared at the invitation for about 30 minutes, flattered that I had been asked, and terrified to participate. Here was my name listed among a who's who of the design world, the demi-gods and goddesses that I have looked up to for so many years, Milton Glazer, Paula Scherr, Seymour Chwast, a rogues gallery of famous designers. And while I have given back to my profession and honored to be named an AIGA Fellow, I was scared to sign up and have one of my pieces judged along side all of the other notable designers.
I have run a really really good design shop for 35+ years. Grafik has a stellar reputation, but I have been on the management side for about 20 of those years, and have not created the beautiful pieces my firm has become famous for. I am not diminishing my accomplishments, it is just that it has not been on the design side of the house. And here, before me, was an honor that I was afraid to take part in, and reluctant to turn down.
The specifications for the piece are that it has to be 10"x 10", it has to capture what was happening in that year, and it has to have 1940 as part of the design. Other than that, it is up to me. Oh, and it has to be done by Feb 28.
I gulped several times and pressed the send button, agreeing to participate, knowing I would regret it if I did not.
This weekend I started on the piece. I did my research first, and I knew that WWII would be a suitable subject for my style. I looked at old posters, and researched what typography was being used at the some. And I fretted and fretted.
Yesterday I went into my studio determined to start. I spent 10 hours playing around, cutting fabric auditioning colors. I knew instinctively that a central part of the design had to be a swastika, a symbol that I have always abhorred and one that send chills down my back. As a young girl growing up in the 1950s the holocaust was not far from my mind, and the swastika was and continues to be a symbol of evil for me. But for this piece to succeed, I had to come to grips with using the symbol and figuring out a graphic way to portray the second world war. I must confess that after I finished my research I immediately took the images of the swastika and tore them into tiny shreds.