The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) took aim at Hollywood in 1947. They sought to prove that communist subversives were using the silver screen as a propaganda tool to overthrow the US government. HUAC held a sensational hearing in Washington D.C. to target select directors, producers and screenwriters. A group of ten men became activists for the defense of these First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the right to free assembly. The Hollywood Ten, as they became known, paid a huge price. They lost their careers, their homes, their families, their friends and their freedom. The quilt, “Fabric of a Nation,” tells the story of the Hollywood Ten and HUAC.
Fabric of a Nation is built around the testimonies of the Hollywood Ten. The full text of each man’s testimony is printed on white and off-white fabric. These were contentious hearings where the gavel hammered loudly and witnesses were forcibly removed. Red stitching brings the viewer’s attention to the raucous and witty dialogue.
Fabric of a Nation is divided in to two sections that emphasis the binary nature of the conflict between HUAC and The Hollywood Ten. The Hollywood Ten’s narrative in black begins with the selection of the group, their backgrounds, the manner of their defense and the eventual fallout. The research and writing was undertaken by the artist using primary and secondary sources.
The red sections of the quilt explain the history of the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC’s narrative in read speaks to its creation in 1938, its near collapse in 1945 and its arrival on the world stage in 1947. V-H Day, featured here, is a play on V-E Day and V-J day from WWII. The typographic style is based on typography and styles used in posters produced during that time period. This image also shows the custom long arm quilting that outlined the title letters to help them pop. Each line of text was preserved by stitching between the lines to keep the text readable.
The Hollywood Ten’s testimonies are screen printed on white and off-white fabric. As the centerpiece of the quilt, the order of the testimonies starts in the middle and alternates from side to side. The first two witnesses, John Howard Lawson and Dalton Truman, were longer than the others As the hearing progressed, the length of the testimonies decreased as HUAC exercised control and restricted the questioning to silence the men. The negative space around the testimonies gives the background behind HUAC and The Ten.